Academic Excellence Pillar:

4th-graders explore energy conservation in robotics unit

Posted January 21, 2019

Fairview Elementary School fourth-graders have many ideas about saving energy: stop lights that turn on when cars approach, televisions that shut off when no one is watching, showers that have a time limit (and a 30-second override button!).

Thanks to a recent robotics unit called Becoming Innovative Resourceful Designing Students (BIRDS), the students got to develop and demonstrate their ideas.

The initiative benefitted Fairview fourth-graders in Angelina Delgado’s and Renee Reimer’s classes, with guidance from educational specialist Chris Helmer and media specialist Shelly Taylor. BIRDS is made possible by grants from the Plymouth Education Foundation of $2,531 in 2017 and $2,444 in 2018.

Students began building background knowledge in November, with one class completing an electronics unit while the other learned to do computer coding using Hour of Code resources; then the classes switched topics.

Learning was enhanced by a visit from Mark Feick of Kohler Co., who talked with the students and showed a video of robots in action. Plymouth High School students also visited to discuss computer coding and the creation of mobile apps.

The fourth-graders then got a chance to use Hummingbird Robotics Kits, each of which contains a circuit board, LED lights, motors, and various types of sensors (such as heat, light, motion).

The kits required students to bring together all of their new knowledge about electricity and coding. After Mr. Helmer instructed them on basics such as how the LED lights and sensors work and how to code the programming, students had a chance to experiment – What if we use two lights? What if we add a gear to make something turn?

“The room gets loud because they’re all getting excited, and they want to see what everyone is doing,” Mr. Helmer said.

The students then were ready to tackle their final project: demonstrate a way to conserve natural resources such as electricity, heat or water. Students worked with a partner to do research, make a proposal, secure teacher approval, design the project, build the scenario, and code the computer program.

Each team filmed a video to explain and demonstrate their creations, which they also shared with their families and other Fairview students in a Robotics Fair on Dec. 20.

The benefits of this project – in addition to being “really cool” – include exposure to computer science and coding, problem-solving, reasoning, creativity, teamwork, public speaking, organizing and prioritizing, Mr. Helmer said.

Fairview robotics project

Click the image to access a photo gallery.

Pillars of Excellence

Increasing the amount of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education at the middle and elementary schools is called for by the Plymouth School District Pillars of Excellence strategic plan for Academic Excellence.
The Board of Education has established four Pillars of Excellence – Academic Excellence, Extracurriculars, Community Engagement, and Financial Responsibility – as key principles that distinguish the district and advance its mission. Each Pillar has a strategic plan that identifies desired Future States and initiatives for the next three years.

The overarching goal of the Academic Excellence Pillar is to guide students as they learn to apply knowledge and skills consistent with the ever-evolving 21st century. The desired Future States are:

  • All students are prepared to enter post-high school education in order to find personal success in a global society.
  • All physical learning environments in the district are exemplary.
  • District teachers, teacher leaders, staff and administrators are of the highest quality and deeply committed to our common mission for children.

To move closer to those Future States, the 2018-19 Academic Excellence strategies include:

  • Assess and refine curricula (K-12 & Community) related to FSAC and Garden, Agriculture, Nutrition, Wellness, and Outdoor-based curricula.
  • Maintain and improve ELA writing and publishing district wide - Professional publication offered for students. Design and test growth monitoring protocol.
  • Ensure improved reading growth for all students supported by the Continuum - measured and tracked for growth via I-Ready and district assessments.
  • Further steps in Innovation and Entrepreneurial curriculum and skill development across the curriculum. Advertise and market K-12 student achievement in STEM.
  • Implement new arts offerings and refine existing arts offerings.
  • Assess all Cum Laude offerings for need and demand – becoming institution practice.
  • Begin Health Careers Curriculum planning phase.
  • Implement "Bridges" math resources K-6 and "Open Up" resources 6-8.
  • Begin work on approved referendum projects to upgrade and maintain physical learning environments to enable superior curriculum delivery.
  • Assess and improve PJSD report card and marketing efforts - we will improve ease of access to all resources for all staff. Assess and add recruitment process.
  • Inspire and grow all staff through professional learning i.e. PDC, workshops, graduate classes and master’s degree opportunities.
  • Third UWGB Masters Cohort completes degree process – all cohorts actively impacting pedagogy and programming district wide.
  • Attract and retain teachers, staff, and administrators leveraging PSD framework, culture, benefits and potential for growth and inspiration. Assess and refine the leadership cohort.

Learn more:
• Visit the Pillars of Excellence webpage to learn more about all four Pillars of Excellence.