Before winter break, the nearly 80 fourth-graders at Eureka Elementary
put their minds toward solving a problem: How could they bring a new recess activity to the playground for all of the school's students that still adhered to the COVID-19 social distancing and cohorting mitigation efforts in place?
The Eureka fourth-graders used creative thinking, persuasive writing, math and art skills to come up with a solution: 12 cornhole boards – two for each grade level – that would promote activity at recess while also allowing participants to keep their distance.
The boards were ready for use when the students returned after winter break, and they've been a big hit at recess.
"I hope that it shows them that what they're learning in elementary school can tie into the real world," said fourth-grade teacher Jacob Branch, who helped lead the project. "They can see that science is everywhere around them, how math can be used daily. On top of that, I hope it shows them that they can be leaders. With help and funding from the school, they created this. Now everyone gets to play out there."
Cornhole is a game in which players take turns throwing bags filled with corn kernels at a raised board across from them with a hole near the top. The object is to throw the bags either through the hole or on the board.
"We looked at the engineering process where we defined the problem – 'We want to be safe but still have fun. How do we responsibly play out there and do something for the whole school?'" Branch said. "They had to measure out and calculate board feet for math and write up how much it would cost using prices that we found from hardware stores."
The fourth-graders came up with a project proposal and pitched it to Principal Lynn White with letters to request the necessary funding from the school. Once Branch built the boards and brought them back to school, he enlisted art teacher Mary LaRose for help decorating them.
Assistant Principal Corie Luczak suggested a monochromatic color scheme for the boards so the students could learn about tints and shades and put their knowledge to practical use.
LaRose had the students practice their tints and shades on paper first, then select the ones they would use for the boards. She taped off sections for the students to paint in shifts, so they weren't crowding around the boards or sharing materials.
"We made a station in each corner of the room so, as one student finished up, they would clean themselves up, go back to their regular project and the next student would paint," LaRose said. "They were amazed to watch the tape being removed. They were like, 'We did that!' They were so proud of themselves. Doing a collaborative project was not something we thought we'd be doing this year with the pandemic. It was nice for them to have a safe way to do a collaborative project."
A local auto body shop helped seal the boards to protect them from the weather. Once sealed, they were then ready for the entire school to enjoy.
All thanks to some hard work and ingenuity from fourth-graders using project-based learning.
"It was amazing to watch everyone add onto this idea with teamwork," Branch said. "I hope it gives them confidence to be leaders in their community and know that they can fix a problem. Together, they can do this."