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Madison sixth-graders’ ‘what-ifs’ materialize on Innovation Day

For Innovation Day, Malachi Anderson proposed a gaming system that gets its energy from the sun. (CONTRIBUTED)
For Innovation Day, Malachi Anderson proposed a gaming system that gets its energy from the sun. (CONTRIBUTED)
"Shampoof" was sixth-grader Evan Baker's concept for a new product at Madison Elementary School's Innovation Day. (CONTRIBUTED)
“Shampoof” was sixth-grader Evan Baker’s concept for a new product at Madison Elementary School’s Innovation Day. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Discarding typical classroom limitations, sixth-graders followed their zealous ideas for the premiere Innovation Day at Madison Elementary School.

The idea started when Bonnie Howard attended Educator Space Academy. “Rocket Boys” author Homer Hickam spoke about his trail-and-error mishaps with rocket design, and said, “I didn’t know I needed math until I fell in love with rockets.”

Howard adapted Hickam’s thought: “What could we learn from our students if we gave them autonomy to research things they’re passionate about … develop new ideas based on their research?”

Howard shared her innovation idea with principal Melissa Mims, who supported the concept. Innovation Day resulted from collaboration among Mims and sixth-grade teachers Howard, Meredith Brewer, Shannon Lilienthal and Laura Ruffin.

By discovering students’ true interests, teachers can then introduce students STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) connections, Howard said.

Sixth-graders worked for six weeks. Based on their research, they developed independent projects to “try something new,” Howard said. Their display boards showcased new ideas or new products.

Projects included “Shampoof,” a new shampoo for ‘bigger’ hair; a solar-powered video-gaming system; and a roof design to shake off volcanic ash.

Other grades visited individual presenters in the library. “It was awe-inspiring to see independent projects that students developed and watch them share their enthusiasm,” Howard said.

More than 100 parents and other visitors, including school board members Dr. Terri Johnson and David Hergenroeder and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, reviewed the projects.

“I was absolutely blown away when (the sixth-graders) shared their final products,” Howard said. Teachers will use what they learned from each student to drive and incorporate concepts into classroom lessons.

Innovation Day also allowed the students “to experience and practice college- and career-ready, 21st-century skills like collaboration, technology integration and presentation and make STEAM connections,” she said.

Student reflections were overwhelmingly positive about the entire event. Student Adaeze Okafor said Innovation Day “was exciting and fun. I never had the opportunity to talk to people about what I love before. I had a great time.”

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