By Choyen Waymouth
During the first days of October, 2016, people from all over the Southeast flocked to the Atlanta Maker Faire. The Maker Faire, held in Dekalb county, is a place for makers and maker-enthusiasts to show the world something new, exciting and innovative.
This year, Discovery High School of Gwinnett County has done just that. A group of ingenious high school students designed, built, and ran an education-themed obstacle course.
Now you may be thinking that sounds ordinary, but think again. Termed “EdObstacles,” the course placed children from Kindergarten through 6th grade in an intense and challenging obstacle course. This course pairs academic challenges with physical activities by combining tire runs and army crawls with Math, Language Arts, and other fun things like the planets in our solar system, slingshots and robotics.
The high schoolers created the course as part of a Project-Based-Learning approach championed by Discovery High School, with a limited amount of support and guidance from teachers. They worked incredibly hard every day with three goals in mind.
- To build a course that challenges kids mentally,
- To build a course that challenges them physically, and
- To make that learning fun and exciting.
My role was Associate Student Producer. I worked with a board of educators to create the best possible environment for each team to succeed, and helped with marketing the results using social media like Twitter. It took two months of planning. Discovery High students imagined and designed the course on paper, and when the opening day of Atlanta Maker Faire arrived, all were ready to put into action!
When the students piled onto the buses at 7:00 in the morning, they were all practically shaking in anticipation. At 7:30 they arrived at the grounds, and they began to set up the course. I spoke to them as they set up, and most were a bit nervous.
- “What if no one likes us?”
- “What if no one comes?”
- “What if this all goes wrong?”
They had good reason to be worried, but they worried about the wrong thing. When the event began there were so many children we almost couldn’t keep up!
There were twelve stations in all, each manned by two students. The obstacle course was designed with the concepts of S.T.E.A.M. in mind. Participants (the students who ran through the course) were grouped by age (K-2 and 3-6) in teams of four. SCIENCE was covered by the Planet Challenge, where kids had to organize balls of various sizes into the correct order as they appear in our solar system. Even Pluto was present. TECHNOLOGY was highlighted in a coding challenge called SPHERO. Partakers were given a tablet to guide an electronic sphere through a maze. ENGINEERING was shown through the maker station, where kids designed and created anything they wished, using their innovative skills to create anything they want. ARTS was incorporated through the incredible design and detail of the course, not to mention the creations made by all the students. MATH was exhibited through both the math toss event and the Ed-Jenga event, where children must solve problems in order to either toss a beanbag onto the correct square, or to move a block in the Jenga tower.
The course took, on average, 20 minutes to complete. . We worked for roughly 8 hours that day, but everyone felt extraordinary. The teachers and students were all so beyond happy it turned out so well, as was I. One of the students interviewed on the project said: “I just want to say I really enjoy helping out and being a part of the community. I most definitely recommend being a part of EdObstacles. I had so much fun, and I’m pretty sure everyone else did too!”
Our amazing discovery is that EdObstacles made learning fun for everyone (students, teachers, participants and even parents). I’m so grateful for the experience, and I can’t wait to see it expand to schools worldwide.
Choyen Waymouth attends Asheville Middle School and helps to lead solutions at EdObstacles: identifying opportunities for improvement and finding positive learning experiences from problems that arise on the course. A Space Camp graduate and natural-born Maker, Choyen spends his free time volunteering at the Humane Society. He works exceptionally hard both in school and out in the real world. Find him on Twitter @Choyen_Koala