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Buffalo Ridge students think outside the box

students working in library

BRE students used their collaborative, imaginative and engineering skills to solve problems presented to them from books read aloud by librarian Aimee Valuck. Using the Novel Engineering program, Valuck guided students through most of a story, right up until the resolution of the problem, then paused to allow students to use critical and creative thinking to solve the problem in their own way.

Students in all grades at Buffalo Ridge Elementary (BRE) are thinking outside the box and solving problems in the Learning Commons.  This school year, library time was added to the rotation schedule, where classes rotate between physical education, art, music and library each for a week every month.

Librarian Aimee Valuck facilitated a fun critical thinking activity for the scheduled library time in October.  Tailored for each grade level, Valuck read most of a book to the students, then divided the kids into groups and charged them with solving the problems presented in the story.  The students did not know the story solution until after they completed their projects and presented them to the other groups.

Parents donated heaps of recyclable materials such as cardboard boxes, egg containers, popsicle sticks and paper cups to serve as the building blocks for the students’ creative thinking projects.  “My only job is to use the X-acto knife and hot glue gun,” Valuck half-jokingly explained.

Kindergarten and first grade students read Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming.  Students were busily assembling creations to help the story’s character Mr. McGreely keep rabbits out of his garden.

Second and third grade classes worked to help Peter keep his snowball from melting (without putting it in the freezer, per the rule from Valuck) in The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

Fourth and fifth grade students had to get extra creative when trying to solve the problem of raising a duck family in a small house with a single bathtub and a human family for six weeks in Jean Craighead George’s book The Tarantula in My Purse.

Valuck reveled in the excitement and ingenuity as students worked together brainstorming and creating their solutions.  “We’re good at making messes here in the library and not quite as good at cleaning them up,” Valuck laughed as younger students reluctantly stopped working to head back to their classroom.

Following the principles of, where students use literature to learn engineering, Valuck led students to ask pertinent questions about the problems they were to solve, which led to imaginative brainstorming and then solutions.

Valuck continued, “It is always a challenge to get students to think critically about what they are reading.  Novel Engineering immerses them in the story problem, helping them analyze what they are reading and pull from their imagination to become part of the solution.  As the students presented, they shared key details from the book to explain their solutions.  It is amazing to see what they can do and how they collaborated to invent something.  I want the students at Buffalo Ridge to know that reading can take them anywhere.”

By Celeste McNeil; photos courtesy of Aimee Valuck



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