Engage Learning helps students design, build new playground

Jesse Crittenden / The Transcript

Lisa VanBiber, team leader for Engage Learning, and Roosevelt fifth grade students help explain the ideas and design behind the "Galaxy Glider," one of eight STEAM projects that were designed by last year's fourth grade students. Construction completion is set for October.

STEAM projects are starting to come together at Norman's Roosevelt Elementary.

Several new playground installations are under construction, all designed by the school's 2018 fourth grade class. The project started in January. The idea was to have the fourth grade students help brainstorm, design and build new playground equipment for kindergarten students at the school.

It's a display of creativity, teamwork and excitement among the students who designed and helped build the projects.

Engage Learning began offering design and engineering opportunities for Central Oklahoma school students and teachers in 2016. The purpose behind the student-led projects is to provide learning opportunities and help develop critical thinking skills among students, with the projects centering around STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) concepts for real-world learning.

One of the main goals of Engage Learning is to put students through a process called "failing forward," which encourages students to work through their mistakes.

"The whole design-build concept is that any time a child has an idea in their brain, it's about letting them know that they can make that happen," said Megan Clarke, team leader for Engage Learning. "But also, you're going to have to do it a whole lot. You're going to fail a whole lot, and you have to or else you won't succeed. The journey of designing and building provides all those things that you can apply to anything in life."

The Roosevelt students were excited about the project and were split into eight groups, with each group responsible for designing a new installation for the playground. Engage Learning worked with two of the eight groups each day for four days a week from January through May. All eight groups were assisted by Kristi Hartman, Roosevelt Elementary's gifted resource coordinator, other Roosevelt teachers and members of the Engage Learning staff.

Once the projects were designed, students had the opportunity to print their prototypes on a 3-D printer. The prototypes served as the basis for how each project would be built.

"It was just so cool to see the students come up with ideas for their project," said Lisa VanBiber, team leader for Engage Learning. "Some of the students even came up with ideas based on the things that their younger siblings like. They were just so excited about being a part of this project."

One of the projects is called "Dinosaur Dig," which includes a pea gravel box that has 3-D printed fossils buried into the gravel. Students can find fossils and then find the dinosaur that the fossil matches.

Another project, the "Galaxy Glider," is a playground zip line that has a model of the eight planets on top of it, allowing students to "travel" between the planets.

"It really is amazing to see these projects come together," said Bart Keeton, founder and director of Engage Learning Oklahoma. "We really couldn't be more proud of these students for what they've accomplished."

Construction began in late spring, where Engage and Roosevelt staff guided students through safety training and instructions on how to use certain tools. Construction continued through the summer, and has continued through the early portion of the new school year.

Keeton said a tentative completion date is the middle of October, which would allow students to play on the playground before Thanksgiving break.

"We just can't wait to be finished and for the students to experience the new playground," Keeton said.

Recommended for you