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New NASA lab allows Jordan Ridge students to complete curriculum-based missions

Nov 03, 2017 12:24PM ● Published by Julie Slama

Jordan Ridge students work together to complete missions that are tied to the core curriculum. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Students are out of their seats. Small groups are talking to one another. Red emergency lights are flashing in the school computer lab.

It may not sound like these students are on task, but they are, said Jordan Ridge sixth-grade teacher Cindy Epperson. 

“The missions students are completing are based on our science core,” she said. “They’re also learning how to problem solve together and communicate.”

Former Jordan Ridge Elementary Assistant Principal Tiffany Cooke spearheaded the grant to bring the InfiniD learning lab’s fictional universe of Colonial Command to the school. Computer aide Teri Burgon said the cost was $3,000 for equipment and $2,000 for the mission.

“We are piloting seven missions right now for sixth-graders,” she said. “Each mission has 18 roles for students, so we’re creative with our scheduling.”

Students are rotated in while other classmates are doing different activities. Parents step up to undergo the training to run the program, Burgon said.

“We have the help we need to run the program, and we’re getting more volunteers in the school,” she said.

Students need to look over the roles before they apply for them with the missions, said sixth-grader Paige Hutsenpiller.

“They’re on Google classroom, so we can look through all the jobs and watch videos about them at home so we can learn the responsibilities with all the jobs,” she said. “By studying our roles, we’re better able to communicate with each other so we can fulfill the mission.”

Her classmate Curtis Carlson said students spend the time reviewing positions for upcoming missions.

“We spend the time doing it since we want to do a good job and complete the mission,” he said. “We need to be able to work as a team for the mission. For example, as a scientist aboard a mission, I needed to collect particles and put them into storage, but at the same time, I needed to depend on others to get me to the point in and out of danger quickly.”

While he may have that role, fellow sixth-grader Isaac Smith may have the role of being an ambassador.

“I may need to be the one to communicate for our team when we encounter aliens,” he said. “Sometimes, it just boils down to peacefully talking to find out what they want.”

Classmate Mason Gonzalez has been an engineer.

“I’ve learned about our ship and what to do to keep it working so it doesn’t break down,” he said. “It’s difficult when you fail a mission. We need to synergize — work together to work through a mission and be respectful on each other.”

Synergize is one of the traits in The Leader in Me program that was developed by Sean Covey’s “Seven Habits of Happy Kids.” There are 21 schools in Jordan School District that have the program in place that focuses on the traits: Be Proactive; Begin with the End in Mind; Put First Things First; Think Win-Win; Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood; Synergize; and Sharpen the Saw, where students learn the importance of eating right, exercise, sleep and spending time with family and friends.

Paige, whose favorite subject is science like Mason’s, said through talking to one another they learn how they can work together to be productive in a timed environment.

“We use the ‘Seven Habits’ a lot, and we’re learning how to listen to the computer, read screens, talk to those with other roles who will help us to be successful in our jobs while still working as a team,” she said. “But at the same time, we’re listening to Galileo and learning about the phases of the moon and its orbit.” 

Curtis, who like Isaac likes math best, did some calculations as the pilot to get into warp speed. He said students can take a mission from start to finish.

“We’re getting to do something more than just taking notes,” he said. “And it will be something we’ll all remember more.”  

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