A group of Fairway Elementary students is working to help bolster the habitat of monarch butterflies. Many other students turned out in the library for a presentation by the "Fairway Five" Feb. 7.
The group of five third-grade students includes Ashlyn Jacob, Alifiya Shakeel, Kate Feeney, Sarah Mu and Paige Blair.
The Fairway Five will present their plan to Junior First Lego League judges Feb. 11, but they wanted to show their classmates first. The FLL releases a challenge every year. This year the challenge is "Creature Craze," where teams have to study a creature that shares its habitat with bees. The girls had to choose an animal, present some of the problems facing that animal, think of a solution, and build a working model explaining their solution.
After extensive research the Fairway Five decided to base their project on the declining population of monarch butterflies. The main problem the girls focused on was habitat loss, specifically the loss of milkweed. Their solution is to encourage people to plant "way stations" - places monarchs can stop along their migration routes to eat and rest. The girls' action step is to ask Principal Dr. Lorinda Krey if they can plant milkweed in the school garden.
Paige's mother, Erika Blair, is a technology teacher at Fairway.
"In tech we've been working on coding for the past several weeks," said Blair, "so this is a good illustration for students to see coding in action. They provided all the parts and the motors and the girls had to figure out how to put it all together and program it to do what they want."
It's impressive for students at this grade level.
"It is," said Blair, "and they can go on to the next levels—First Lego League and high school level."
Blair said they hope to inspire students to investigate what they can do with coding.
"I like that they have to persevere through different problems," she said. "There have been times when we have run a program and the whole model, the whole robot just kind of falls apart. And they have to build it back up and keep going."
Parent and coach Fatima Shakeel said, "It's about their imagination, engineering and building skills."
Shakeel said her experience has shown Lego helps kids build social connections.
"What I have seen with my kids when they turn out to build something with Lego is they rise to a different level -- a friendship level."
Regarding the Fairway Five, Dr. Krey said, "They came to me and asked if they could share their message with other students. It is very impressive. They have a vision and are totally into the innovation side of things. I hope all our students can learn that they can have an idea that has a problem, and they are capable of coming up with ideas to solve that problem in a real world way."