As annual traditions go, 5th Grade STARBASE is a keeper. While last year disrupted many traditions, this Spring we were excited to bring this one back. For many years, the 5th grade has been involved in STARBASE.
As things started to open up this spring, in partnership with the STARBASE staff, we worked to ensure that all necessary safety guidelines and protocols were in place and set up an adapted STARBASE experience this year.
Each pod took turns travelling to STARBASE for two days of on-base activities ranging from classroom learning, projects, a turn on the flight simulator and tours of the facilities and equipment (including watching jets take off!). With a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), students had a myriad of opportunities to learn new things and apply their knowledge. Students worked in collaborative groups working to solve complex problems and share their ideas and solutions with classmates.
Throughout our time with STARBASE, our future rocketeers practiced each of their learner traits. When students were asked to solve problems, they worked both individually and together demonstrating self-direction and used creative and practical problem solving to engage their own and group-mates’ informed and integrative thinking. In small groups students shared their ideas and products with others using clear and effective communication. While working together during tours of the base and facilities, students continually demonstrated responsible and involved citizenship.
While still at STARBASE, students began working on their final projects. Then, after students returned, STARBASE staff Zoomed into classrooms to support students’ work toward their culminating project – The Rocket Launch. In each pod, students worked with their instructors virtually, and together with table-mates to put the finishing touches on each of their rockets.
While safety guidelines didn’t quite allow for the usual gathering of students and families for our annual rocket launch, the 5th grade still gathered together on a most spectacular Vermont spring day to send our rockets skyward. When we got to the field, it was a little windy, but as the STARBASE staff set up the launch pads, the wind died and the clouds disappeared. Perfect launch conditions. In each of their pods, they set up their own rocket, and worked to prepare for take-off. Then, together as a 5th grade, students counted down and cheered together as each student took turns launching (and then chasing down and retrieving) their rockets.
Some rockets went on the first try. A few did not. But that was OK! With more creative and practical problem solving each rocket was sent skyward. Students supported one another, the staff and our friends at STARBASE all worked to ensure that every student had a successful launch.
Justin Brown is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jbrownenator.