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PPSEL Students Present Hundreds of Semester Expeditions

Echo Scheuerle Hundreds of projects, showing preschool to eighth grade learning, were on display May 20 during gallery night at Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning in District 49.

Families traveled through the school’s hallways and classrooms, as students presented their semester-long expeditions into science and social studies.

“We learned a lot about momentum, gravity and force,” said Echo Scheuerle, 14, explaining a four-person team’s case studies and learning targets. They engaged in three primary areas of study: Newton’s laws; impulse and momentum; and gravity.

As part of an exploration into physics, they designed a rollercoaster while following guiding questions into momentum and data collection. With their culminating period of study complete, the team earned first place in the school’s sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade science category.

They also took second place this month in the “Show Us Your Coaster Contest” at Elitch Gardens in Denver. Members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts judged entires based on technical merit, theme and creativity, and rider enjoyment.

“It was a lot of teamwork,” said Scheuerle.

Devyn Germack As families approached fifth-grader Devyn Germack, 11, she explained the legacy of Pocahontas, wearing traditional Native American clothing. The next table to her left, fifth-grader Raiden Michaels, 11, was dressed like John Hancock and discussing the Declaration of Independence.

Using a narrative approach to history, the school’s fifth graders explored the guiding questions, “What is history?” and “How is history shaped?” Dressed as historical characters for gallery night, they gave presentations that helped answer those questions.

“Engineers make machines to make life easier,” said kindergartner Cassie Johnson, 6, while presenting to principal Don Knapp. Kindergartners explored science using the guiding questions, “What is science?” and “How do different kinds of scientists learn about the world?”

Cassie had research engineering, chemistry, astronomy and paleontology. Like other students, her project focused on a "can" statement: “I can describe what an engineer does.”

“This event is tangible evidence of work done this semester,” said Knapp, after commending Cassie’s confidence and clarity. “This is a chance for our community to see what students have been working on, hear students discuss their learning, and see final projects.”

As part of an expeditionary learning school, Knapp says educators focus on learning with a purpose, or motivating engaged learners to demonstrate content area mastery.

“They go out and meet experts, we bring experts to them here, and they become experts,” said Knapp.

Alex Nieto Preschooler Alex Nieto, 5, was explaining a watermelon plant, and how water travels through the roots and sunlight through the leaves. Preschoolers explored plant life using the guiding questions, “How do plants grow and survive?” and “Why are plants important to people?”

Mother Clare Nieto feels Alex is ready for kindergarten.

“We talk about everything that’s happening in the classroom, at least three times a day,” said Nieto. “Alex just comes home and reiterates everything. He’s really come out of his shell. He loves school, teachers, meeting friends.”

“There’s a lot of energy here,” said Knapp, touring exhibits with families. “Everyone is looking over everything, seeing what all of our students are learning. That’s what’s exciting to me. It’s not just pencil-and-paper testing. Our students can explain what they’ve learned.”

Devyn Germack

Raiden Michaels

Cassie Johnson
Dustin Senger
dsenger@d49.org
719.499.5982