GATE students, families celebrate science and engineering

Pico Canyon Elementary

Hundreds of students in the Newhall School District came together Thursday night for a new kind of learning experience.

The students and their families met on Pico Canyon Elementary School’s campus to participate in the district’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Family Night program.

Geared for students in fourth through sixth grade who demonstrate advanced educational capabilities and academic grades, the Newhall GATE program provides an academic curriculum that extends regular classroom instruction for those students who qualify for the program.

Thursday’s Family Night event focused on science and engineering to align with the state’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

“This year the district is fortunate to have a teacher who specializes in the new science standard and she and the other science curriculum specialists are facilitating tonight’s event,” said Meadows School Assistant Principal Kimberly LePage.

Rachelle Lopez, a teacher on special assignment (TOSA) for science in the Newhall School District, planned the event with the district’s science curriculum specialists.  She said the district chose to highlight engineering because it is something new to the science standard.

“The thinking behind that is the science is the body that is asking questions about the world around us and the engineering is then addressing the needs and concerns that come up,” Lopez said.

GATE students were divided into groups as they moved around three different learning stations focused on hands-on, engaging design challenges that highlight the components of the Next Standard’s ETS (engineering, technology and application of standards).

At the “gorilla hands” station, students had to define and delimitate engineering problems by using tools to get food out of a small structure while wearing large gorilla hands.

At the tower build station, students developed possible solutions to identify where their tower design was failing and build it to fit criteria.

And at the airplane challenge station, students optimized design solutions by changing variables in their designs to fit different airplane challenges.

Altogether, the event encouraged students to investigate different avenues of study within the science field.

“The Newhall School District really has a vision and commitment to providing this hands-on science and engineering experience to the kids,” Lopez said.

LePage said the event encourages like-minded students to explore new areas of learning together.

“The district wants to provide something universally to these students to challenge them and to expose them to different areas like engineering,” LePage said.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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