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Meridian STEM students design their own amusement park

The third-graders at Barbara Morgan STEM Academy will continue to design through the month of February.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — The process of learning can often time have its ups and downs.  Some days may be harder than others.  One school in Meridian is turning all of those ups and downs of learning into one thrilling lesson.

The future engineers at Barbara Morgan STEM Academy are doing thorough research on theme parks and roller coasters.  They’re working to design their own amusement park.

"We were working on, 'How do we get enough speed for our marble to have enough force to travel a long distance?’  So that was our first challenge,” third-grade teacher Wendy Snyder said.

Project-based learning is a teaching technique that they use often at the STEM academy.  Snyder describes it as multiple areas of studies included in one big project.

"So we're doing science, and we're doing math, we're doing social studies.  We're doing all of those things not in isolation, but within the project,” Snyder says.

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Students start with one big question.  

"We build background knowledge to get to that final project, and the kids help us to decide, 'What do we need to know to be able to answer certain kinds of questions?’” Snyder said.

That leads to a lot of brainstorming.

"Why do you think it went a shorter distance?" Snyder asks her students. 

“Because it had the loop, so it used up most of its speed," answers student, Emmery Shoemaker.

The students aren’t just thinking about force and motion here.

"We talked about measurements, we talked about how to advertise to get people to come. We talked about safety,” explains Snyder.

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Teachers say it’s a way to “hide the vegetables,” by disguising some of the harder school subjects in fun.

“Then it's nice to go back and point it out to them, ‘look you are a mathematician!  You can do this! You just didn't realize where you needed it!’  and now that helps them to get more excited about learning something they didn't think they were that good at,” Snyder said.

"My favorite part is engineering it, and then improving it, and then doing that again and again,” says student Connor Clack.

The third-graders at Barbara Morgan STEM Academy will continue to design through the month of February.  Then, at the end of the month, they’ll host an “amusement park night” for friends and family, to showcase their finished project.

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