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School Days: Gilroy Unified School District El Roble Technology Challenge By Melanie Corona, Public Information Officer, Gilroy Unified School District E 64 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN Austin Sorenson (fourth grade) and Maya Sanchez (fifth grade) preparation her team discovered a problem with part of their device and had to go back and “iterate” their process. When I asked her to elaborate, she replied, “There was a part that wasn’t working and we had to go back through our steps to make the device stronger.” The students I interviewed are Fifth Graders now in their second year of the Tech Challenge Club, and they all are excited to return to the Tech Museum of Innovation in March to test their knowledge and skills against their peers. They are excited to see other ideas brought to the Challenge by their peers from other schools, and to learn about what secondary school students were doing for their projects. They talked about learning from other students, and expanding on ideas and mistakes that were brought to the Challenge by other teams. Mrs. Krejdovsky shared with me that the Tech Challenge Club at El Roble is open to students from all backgrounds and academic abilities. She said one student who is in Special Education is the Club’s best structural builder. “He always has a way of looking at things that opens my eyes,” she said, “and we know that whatever he constructs is going to be structurally sound and will stand up. Kids want to work with him because he brings such a unique talent to their team.” The El Roble staff and administration is committed to the longevity and success of the Tech Challenge Club, and Principal Scott Otteson has recently reconfigured the space formerly used as the staff lounge and copy room into an all-access STEM Lab for students (the staff lounge and copy room were relocated). While in its infancy, when the Lab is complete, it will be a place for students to connect, collabo- rate and create, through science, technology, engineering and math. However, the greater lessons being discovered in El Roble’s Tech Challenge Club transcend traditional education by helping students prepare to become citizens of the world. december 2018-january 2019 Every Tuesday, after school at El Roble Elementary, 35 students gather in Mrs. Krejdovsky’s classroom for the Tech Challenge Club. This club was established in partnership with The Tech Museum of Innovation. It’s goal: to provide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning opportunities in and outside of school, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in these fields of education. The club provides year-round learning opportunities, culminating with the annual Tech Challenge. To run a club of this kind, teachers are required to complete a training program, after which they are designated as Tech Academy Fellows. Students work collaboratively in small groups on various projects, guided by teachers: Mrs. Krejdovsky, Mrs. Pearson and Mr. Casey to help them reach the objective for the day. Projects are designed to help students construct devices to be presented at the Tech Challenge in March. Rather than following the traditional teacher-student format, there’s an exchange of information between students and teachers, most often with students leading the exchange. When I visited El Roble, students were actively engaged in building conductors that lit up when connected to an energy source. They worked together to discover the best methods for completing the project, and cheers went up from students and teachers alike when the lights turned on. It was a moment of excitement and pride. What struck me most when I spoke with some of the students were the “life lessons” they shared with me. They said the Tech Challenge Club has taught them the value of teamwork in order to tackle their project from a variety of approaches and reach the best solution. One of their favorite sayings is “fail faster to succeed sooner.” They learn it’s okay to make mistakes, because it’s an opportunity to learn. One student shared that during last year’s Tech Challenge