Makers, Creators, and Doer’s: 100+ Students Participate in First-Ever Georgia Elementary Maker Faire!

What is a Maker Faire? Maker Faire is an opportunity for discussion, expression, creativity, and FUN!  The expression on the faces of both adults and children show it all!


On a February school night, the GEMS cafeteria was elbow-to-elbow as parents,children, and students attended the maker event with enthusiasm and excitement.

Everyone was given the opportunity to create, make, and problem solve and a variety of diverse challenge tasks and inquiry based learning opportunities were spread throughout the cafeteria.


Each station was unique and lured the creative thinker over to investigate, build – and hopefully solve. IMG_1275The following were booths/activities available:

Mini Maker Booths

  • Windmill Blade Demo: Testing 4th grade blade designs.
  • Fireflies: Create pinwheels that light-(sponsored by Georgia PTO).
  • Helicopter/Whirlybird Challenge: Create and drop from the lift.
  • Bushbot Challenge: Create and play!! (Sponsored by the University of Vermont)
  • Sail Challenge:  Create a sail and test it on the wind track
  • Alma Seltzer Rocket Launcher: Create a launcher and hit the targets
  • Solar Fountain:  Use solar panels to power a water fountain. Created from clay.  Yes wires AND water! (Sponsored by Georgia PTO)
  • Wind Car Challenge:  Create a car that sails the farthest
  • Spinbots:  Draw with a battery operated Spirograph
  • Create a “Hand Held Windmill” that you can take home
  • Catapult Making:  Create a simple catapult that hits a target


Thank You to the following sponsors for their support and contributions towards materials and supplies.  Children, could not only build and create, but bring home their designs for memories and keepsake. Thank you so Much!

  • Play 2 Learn Childcare
  • Twisted Pretzel
  • UVM
  • Carolyn Branagan, State Rep.
  • Georgia PTO
  • Georgia Market

Flexible Learning Environments: Flexible learning environments will be created by redefining the school day,promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom and fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all.

Target: Students engage in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.

FWSU to Launch “Girls Who Code” Club

downloadThis summer FWSU will offer an exciting opportunity for current seventh grade girls to explore the world of computer science. We are launching a Girls Who Code Club. The goal of the program is to heighten interest in this incredibly important field of study which is currently in decline, especially among women. Coding, or computational thinking, is a collection of skills that result from studying the nature of computation. It includes problem solving, creativity, the ability to explain, collaboration, and teamwork.


It also consists of some very specific problem solving skills such as the ability to think logically and algorithmically. It is also about understanding people and, even more importantly, finding and solving problems that will confront our world in the future. Computer Science is unique in the way it brings all of these diverse skills together. So why is this club being launched this summer? Why is this important for our girls? Check out these very sobering statistics: 

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  • Women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2014).
  • Female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations than are men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (58%) and biological and medical sciences (48%) and relatively low shares in engineering (13%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%) (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2014).
  • There has been a 79% decline in the number of 1st year undergraduate women interested in a Computer Science major between 2000 and 2011. (NCWIT, 2012)
  • 21% of girls say their parents encourage them to become an actress, while 10% of girls say their parents have encouraged them to think about an engineering career. (Harris Interactive for the American Society for Quality, 2009)
  • Women earn…
    • 57% of all undergraduate degrees
    • 52% of all math and science undergraduate degrees
    • 42% of all math and statistics degrees and 40% of all physical science degrees
    • BUT only 18% of all computer and information sciences undergraduate degrees (Girls in IT: The Facts Infographic)


Clearly we must turn the tide and encourage young women to enter this essential career area. Such change will take time and effort. Fortunately schools across FWSU have been ramping up in this area for several years.

IMG_1317Our STEM initiatives, Engineering Day and Maker-Faires are good, but they only scratch the surface. Therefore we are expanding opportunities for all students in all of our schools. Next year InnoLabs will be introduced throughout our system (coding, robotics, gaming, making, fabrication), but this summer we will focus mainly on our middle school girls.

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Please stay tuned for more news regarding this summer opportunity as our planning has just begun. Learn more about Girls Who Code Clubs.

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If you have questions you contact Superintendent Ned Kirsch at or by phone at (802) 370-3113. You can follow him on Twitter @betaVT

Fletcher Students Engineer Outdoor STEM Learning

Target 1 – Student Centered Learning: FWSU students will engage in personalized learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creative learning opportunities.

Action Step – Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creativity for students and staff.
Indicators of Success – Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.
STEM2 (1) STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Individually, each discipline is an essential component of a child’s education. The subjects become far more meaningful, however, when students work to identify the connections between all four disciplines.
STEM4During this interdisciplinary approach, students address real-world problems that require them to become scientists, digital citizens, engineers and mathematicians. As they approach a meaningful problem through these four lenses, they begin to discover the interconnectedness of the subjects and their ability to use this knowledge not only in that moment, but also in their quest to solve future problems.
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 At Fletcher, building a STEM vocabulary and knowledge base begins in preschool. Today, using “ramps” and “stackers” students worked to design a course that would allow a wooden ball to move the greatest length. They practiced and increased their vocabulary for units of measurement (distance, speed, etc.) and discussed the relationship between the height of the starting point of the ball and it’s ultimate speed and distance. Along the way, they made countless modifications based on experimentation and observations as they discussed their scientific theories and predictions. The teacher used digital technology to record the experience for later use in the classroom.
Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics with relevant problem-solving increases student engagement in school. STEM concepts and activities are also easy for families to have fun with at home and in the car … just about anywhere. Check out these suggested activities.


Target 1  Student Centered Learning- Students will engage in personalized learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem solving, and creative learning opportunities.

Action Step – Teachers will highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving, and creativity for students.

Indicator of Success -Students and staff will apply existing knowledge to create original works as a means of personal or group expression.


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The Georgia Elementary School has modified and enhanced its STEM initiative by incorporating a program that reaches beyond traditional science instruction. During this school year, the program will include first and second graders in addition to embedding the arts during key instructional time.

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Research states that young students are motivated and can capitalize on early exposure and experiences. Developmentally appropriate engagement with quality experiences help children understand the world around them and provides a learning opportunity to organize thoughts, apply and test ideas, and develop further understanding of science.

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Through the engineering design process students Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve, and Ask questions to solve problems through inquiry based activities. In alignment with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), children in earlier grades are expected to demonstrate proficiency in planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, constructing explanations and designing solutions, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. Students are expected to use these practices to demonstrate understanding of core ideas.

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The following is a challenge that first graders had to solve through this process:

“To construct a path that will make a marble go the slowest down an incline.”

Students used trial and error to make adjustments to reach the challenge. Here are a sampling of their discussions:

  • “I think the curvier the better”
  • “zig-zags, curves, and breaks  will make it go very slow”
  • “The sticks will keep the marble from jumping the track”
  • “I have a plan!!, I have a plan!! Let’s go back and fix it”
  • “If we watch other people’s experiments we can get new ideas”

photo 3 (12)STEM Coach JoAnn Harvey and Art Teacher Dorsey Hogg collaborate, plan, and deliver instruction together to provide learning opportunities that cut across curricular content areas. Infusing Art into STEM produces STEAM which provides an enhanced opportunity for creativity and problem solving. Follow up then occurs, both in the classroom and art room, for a greater balance of embedded instruction throughout the entire school day.


Third Grade Students Tackle a Lemon of a Problem at GEMS

Target 1 – Student-Centered Learning. Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creativity for students and staff

Action Step: Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creativity for students and staff

Indicator of Success: Students are engaged in an authentic learning experience and work together to solve a problem.


Students in Ms. Sikorsky’s 3rd Grade at GEMS think of some great questions during their morning discussions!  During a recent Morning Meeting, the class asked:

“How many lemons does a lemon tree produce in a year?” 

“How many lemons would it take to go the length of GEMS?” 

“Can we figure it out?”

Interesting question,  when fall is settling in and Vermont is ready to  be blanketed by snow!  These students rose to the challenge, eager to investigate and determined to find answers.


And so, how do you go about measuring a school with lemons??   This is how… from a 3rd grader’s perspective:

  1. We measured 11 lemons and the average length was 3½ inches .
  2. We made a plan for measuring the school.
  3. Then, we measured the school in parts.  We used a tape measure to get the total number of feet and inches.
  4.  Then we added all the feet together and all the inches together. We found out the total to be 613 feet and 21 inches (614 feet and 9 inches).
  5. We turned the feet into inches using addition and multiplication.


  1. We decomposed 7,377 inches into 7,000 + 300 + 70 + 7 so it would be easier to work with.
  2. We found out how many 3½ were inside each number.
  3. We found that there were two 3½’s in 7, twenty 3½’s in 70, about ninety 3½’s in 300, and two thousand 3½’s in 7,000.
  4. Then we had to add 2, 20, 90, and 2,000 together to get the total number of lemons. We could use mental math to do that problem!


So, it took 2,112 lemons to measure the length of GEMS.


Now, that’s alot of lemons! 

Young Scientists Wow Parents at STEM Night!

Target 4 – Engaged Community Partners. FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

Action Step – Engage community partners in a focused collaborative inquiry process.

Indicator of Success – Learning outcomes will be expanded to encourage curiosity, communication, and digital citizenry.

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Exploring the interdependence of plants and animals has engaged and inspired GEMS second grade students. As a culminating activity, students invited their parents to STEM Night to share work and join in the experience of the Engineering Design Process for themselves.

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From discovering a new definition of technology, to the creating technologies including animal and hand pollinators…this was just the “tip of the stigma” – a little plant humor!

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Throughout the entire Engineering Design Process, these young students along with their teachers, had deep science talks and investigations about many questions:

“What do plants need to live and grow?”

“Do plants and animals need each other?”

“What is pollination?”

“What does an agricultural engineer do?”

“And, what is a waggle dance anyway?” 

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As the students shared their experiences in this way it allowed them to practice communicating what they had learned to a captive audience.

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Also, having students be a part of an engineering team with their mom or dad in order to design and build a “Super Pollinator” allowed everyone to feel like an engineer and experience many degrees of success.

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Dad collaborates with his son about his science notebook.

STEM night was focused on sharing the learning that happens at school with families while focusing on the student’s voice in this process.

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What became evident as the evening unfolded was how enthusiastic and engaged both parents and children were.

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STEM Nights likes these spread the excitement of learning!



Special thanks to STEM Coach, JoAnn Harvey.


Target 1 – Student-Centered Learning. FWSU students will engage in personalize learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creative learning opportunities.

Action Step – Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creativity for students and staff.

Indicator of Success – Students and staff will apply existing knowledge to create original works as a means of personal or group expression.

art-STEAM8STEM Coach JoAnn Harvey and Art Teacher Dorsey Hogg are building STEAM with GEMS students. They collaboratively plan units to help students to make greater connections involving the natural world and all aspects of their learning. Second graders recently learned that their observations as a scientist was directly linked to their observations as an artist.


While working in the Science “Lightbulb” Lab, students learned about interdependent relationships in the ecosystem and how plants rely on animals for pollination or to move their seeds around. Children dissected flowers, identified the parts of plants that carry pollen, and acted as engineers to design hand-pollinators for specific flowers.


As part of their study, both Mrs. Harvey and Mrs. Hogg shared the importance of using observational skills, how scientists apply those techniques while in the field, and how artists apply those techniques in the studio. 


Art Teacher Dorsey Hogg

STEAM integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.