Westfield 5th Graders Win Top Smithsonian International Design Awards
Franklin School principal says students embrace "hands-on learning."
The following is a press release from the Westfield School District:
Dustin Paden, fifth grader at Franklin Elementary School in Westfield, was named the winner in the e-Pals-Smithsonian Invent-it Challenge in which hundreds of K-12 students participated around the globe. His Drip Gripper invention that recycles water was selected among all the inventions in the 9-11 age group. Dustin will receive a scholarship to a one-week invention camp, high-end LEGOs, and Smithsonian and e-Pals merchandise.
Franklin fifth grader Rachel Saxon received the Helping the Planet Award for her invention to help rescuers clean marine animals disabled during an oil spill. Classmate Matt Rock received the Helping People Award for conceiving his Shielded Wire invention that would reduce the number of downed wires and subsequent blackouts during storms.
Their teacher Betsy Freeman explained she used a project-based learning approach and integrated Language Arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The project originated in Reading and Writing Workshop as students identified a problem in their everyday lives, wrote about it, grew their observations and ideas further, and then complemented their observations with nonfiction reading and research to brainstorm and write about a possible solution. Finally, they used steps within the Engineering Design process to design a solution, sketch it, create it, research improvements, and build a model.
“One of the aspects that we loved about this Design Challenge was its global reach,” stated Freeman. “Students were thrilled that their work would be shared with others worldwide, and that they in turn would be able to read and understand more about problems that their peers across continents may face, and how students there would go about solving them. We become a classroom without walls.”
Freeman’s fifth graders also partnered with a class from Taiwan on e-Pals, starting with the exchange of emails about their cultures, with the possibility of collaborating later in the year on a project.
When Dustin Paden was asked what inspired him to invent his award-winning Drip Gripper invention, he explained, “People like you and me are fortunate to have clean tap water. In the book One Well: The Story of Water on Earth, by Rochelle Strauss, I learned that some people in our world have to travel miles to get water that we can get by simply twisting a knob on our faucets. Imagine not having water for basic uses such as drinking and doing dishes. How would you feel if you knew that gallons of water are being wasted by others who are fortunate to have it? That's why I invented the Drip Gripper. The Drip Gripper saves drops of water that drip out of leaky faucets. If everyone had a Drip Gripper, more water would be saved and reused instead of going down the drain.”
Rachel Saxon, who received the Helping the Planet Award for The Soothing Sounds Safety Mask, said she was inspired by the helpless victims of oil spills -- animals. “After much reading, I knew that these poor animals need help . . . I chose to do a mask because I know that respirators are necessary while handling oil.”
Matt Rock, the recipient of the Helping People Award, was inspired by Hurricane Sandy when he went about inventing The Shielded Wire. “The morning after the hurricane I went outside. I saw so many trees that fell on wires. Power was down everywhere. I thought in my head, ‘I can fix this problem’," explained Matt.
“We are so proud of our students,” stated Franklin Principal, Eileen Cambria. “Whenever possible we try to frame our learning in a real-world context, so that our work really matters. Asking students to identify problems in their own world, to look closely at their environment, and to engineer change supports their thinking critically and creatively. Elementary students are natural engineers, problem-solvers, innovators, and scientists. They embrace hands-on learning,” added Dr. Cambria.