At Episcopal, we often talk about the benefits of hands-on learning and how these experiences spark a students’ interest and encourage deep learning. A recent visit to the QUEST Center in Foster Hall showcased a wide array of these creative opportunities which are being offered by Episcopal faculty. While many of the lessons have been taught before, this new space is providing the opportunity to expand or even create new and exciting ways to learn. Students and teachers are enjoying every minute of it!
PreK Garden Fixer Upper
Recently, fifth graders got their hands dirty by weeding, painting and sprucing up the PreK-4 garden. QUEST Center coordinator Dr. Elizabeth Lewis and the fifth grade teachers worked with the older students to re-imagine the space. Students drew up proposals and the class worked together to implement their ideas. The result was a space to inspire any 4-year-old, complete with a bird sanctuary, construction zone, prehistoric place, milkweed monitoring, mudpie kitchen and herb and vegetable patches.
After several weeks of hard work and planning, the fifth graders were excited to reveal what they had accomplished, and the PreK students were eager to explore. “Do y’all like it?” asked the fifth graders. “We love it!” shouted the younger Knights jumping up and down. The brightly colored learning environment is just outside the PreK-4 classroom, and it is sure to be the site of countless discoveries this year.
Middle School Monster Mash
In English class, students often read text and write a response. In Martha Guarisco’s sixth grade class, there is so much more to explore. In celebration of fall festivities and an upcoming lesson on Greek mythology, Guarisco introduced a mythical monsters lesson. The lesson began with students using Google Expedition to view ancient creatures including a centaur, Pegasus, Medusa, a phoenix and nymphs. Using inspiration from what they saw, students then had to imagine their own creature and the traits that it might possess. To make the lesson a truly hands-on experience, Guarisco challenged students to mash their creatures with those imagined by their classmates.
This merging of mashed monsters took place in the QUEST Center. Using pool noodles, feathers, duct tape and more, students made creatures such as the “lioermis” created by Hollis, Lilianna and Zoey or the phoenix created by Patrick, Cohen, Pierce and Jace. While using the tools in the Middle School Design Studio was fun, the students were also retaining what they learned. Members of the “lioermis” group were able to describe an ancient phoenix and its rebirth from the ashes. The phoenix group designed a creature, similar to many mythical monsters, that could shape shift from human to bird.
As the sixth graders work on their creatures, they can’t help but see the activity taking place elsewhere in the facility. Guarisco recently overheard students expressing interest in the eighth graders’ Rube Goldberg project. “This is building excitement because it’s a shared space,” she says of the creative work taking place all around.
The Science of a Rube Goldberg Machine
There’s no better way to learn about simple machines than to build one. Episcopal eighth graders are creating Rube Goldberg Machines as part of a lesson on the engineering design method. Science teacher Shyamala Alapati challenged pairs of students to create a machine using four simple machines and 10 events. Students began the process by brainstorming and drawing out ideas on paper. After that, they had a class period to explore materials ranging from blocks and pipes to cardboard and popsicle sticks. In no time, students were using pulleys, levers, wedges and inclined planes to accomplish simple feats. Through the trial and error that is common in science, students are revising their plans as they go along. Once complete, the machines will be combined into one large Rube Goldberg Machine that will be revealed at the QUEST Center open house on Sunday, November 15th at 3:30 pm.
It is exciting when lessons read in a book come to life. Whether it’s the latest technology, recycled materials or simply the space to support a big imagination, the QUEST Center is allowing teachers to do what they do best – inspire the next generation of thinkers and leaders.
Open House - Sunday, November 15th at 3:30 pm
Episcopal families are invited to the QUEST Center Open House on Sunday, November 15 at 3:30 PM. Please click here to RSVP by November 11th and choose an available time slot to tour the new space. QUEST Center Coordinator Dr. Elizabeth Lewis and our faculty have planned an afternoon filled with interactive experiments and a showcase of the wonderful projects for students and families to enjoy.