Vt. students transform trash into technological treasures - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. students transform trash into technological treasures

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Monkton Central School teacher Kate Gagner considered herself a traditional student.

She thrived in a classroom where desks were in rows and students were all working on the same assignments.

But she says it's not an approach that works for all kids and now that she's in charge she is shaking things up starting with the furniture.

Monkton Central School has about 150 students and 35 faculty and staff. The elementary school works with a roughly $2.6 million budget.

Inside Kate Gagner's Monkton Central School classroom stuff is everywhere.

"It's an Einstein house," said Sierra Petrocelli, sixth-grader.

That's because Friday afternoons her fifth and sixth graders take charge.

"I like how you can kind of pick what you want to learn about and build anything you really want," said Petrocelli.

The transformation happens inside what Gagner calls her "Maker Space."

"There's a vaccum, there's a couple toys, there's a toy guitar we took apart," said Anni Funke, fifth-grader.

Students are taking on design and engineering challenges with any old household item and tools as their supplies.

"We took apart a phone and got a big battery for a bed," said Petrocelli.

"The challenges that I design is kind of hiding the broccoli in the mac and cheese," said Gagner.

"It is a chance for them to be creative, weave some science in but then also learn how to persevere, solve problems, work together, be flexible in their thinking, it's such a slam dunk as far as hitting a lot of educational targets," said Gagner.

Reporter Keith McGilvery: Some people are going to say it is absolutely crazy that you are using pickles and pineapples to run a computer, what do you say?

Quincy Cook, sixth-grader: I would say it is electricity.

Gagner says the kids are also learning about things like motion, forces, and making circuits with an approach that makes learning accessible.

"High ceiling, low floor so anybody can get in the door and how high you take it is really up to you," said Gagner.

And for two hours Friday afternoon, the only limits are one's imagination.

"I am learning mostly about like what's inside certain electronics," said Petrocelli.

"I think it is more fun to learn by yourself than have a teacher keep telling you what to do," said Funke.

Even if Gagner has to remind students to pick up their stuff when lab time is over.

Gagner having her classroom looking and feeling a lot more like a workshop has taken time to get used to.

She says all of the recycled supplies have come free of charge from families in the community.

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