WINCHESTER — On Tuesday afternoon, Garland Quarles Elementary School third graders tested their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills by building traps out of sticks, balls, string and other resources to see if they could trap some turkeys before Thanksgiving.
Of course, the turkeys weren’t real nor could they gobble, but it’s a fun way to challenge the student’s problem-solving skills, said Quarles third-grade teacher Danielle DeChristopher. The turkeys are made of paper and attached to a cup. The object was to build something that would drop another cup on top of the turkey to trap it.
Quarles STEM teacher Ellen Martin came up with the activity lesson several years ago.
“They’re very independent. They know where things are in the room. If they come up with something else they’d like to try, usually I say yes,” Martin added.
Quarles third graders Narciso Mendoza, 8, and Enrique Gomez Laja, 8, worked on building a turkey trap together and said the activity was fun. The two created a wall of blocks surrounding their turkey trap to prevent the turkey from running away. They also placed dominoes within the trap to “distract” the turkey.
For Enrique, Thanksgiving means “being nice to each other,” and for Narciso the holiday is an opportunity to spend time with family.
Third grader Claire Rich, 8, said she’s learned now how to trap turkeys, a valuable skill to have when Thanksgiving comes around.
“I’m a turkey queen,” Claire said.
Claire’s turkey trap partner, Scarlett Craballo, 8, said she’s going to brag about her new turkey trapping skill to her family over the holidays.
When Scarlett thinks of Thanksgiving the first thing that comes to mind is turkey, but her favorite part of the holiday is playing games with her family.
DeChristopher said the turkey-trapping activity excites her students.
“These types of projects are great for kids, because they get to collaborate with their work,” she said.
One group of students had an elaborate plan for their turkey trap, DeChristopher said, but it didn’t work out so they had to regroup and make a new plan.
“So it teaches them to work through a problem and to find a new solution if that problem doesn’t work,” she said.
This kind of STEM activity takes students out of traditional, textbook learning, DeChristopher said, and in a way kind of tricks the students into learning.
“A lot of our student populations don’t have a lot opportunities like this in their own homes, so I think it’s really incredible,” she said.