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School Stories

Middle School Embraces Innovation

While the Gates Invention Competition is instrumental in helping Graland promote the ideal of “children as inventors,” the vision of Charles C. Gates ‘34 was that curiosity and inventiveness would interweave into the overall curriculum. With the expansion of the Gates lab in 2016, this vision is being realized on a daily basis as teachers use Graland’s innovation skills to enhance their lessons. Take a look.
Build with Buddies
Buddy activities are a big hit in developing collaborative skills. Fifth graders team up with lower schoolers to help “disguise” Thanksgiving turkeys made on the Epilog Laser Machine from upcycled materials. Seventh graders pair up with third graders to work on coding skills during national “Hour of Code” week. Eighth graders help pre-kindergartners work on their fine motor skills by hand-tying ribbon around cardboard hearts for Valentines Day. 

Global Learning
The world language team uses the lab to add elements of creative thinking, critical thinking, and collaboration to their lessons. Sixth graders come into the lab to puzzle together a pre-cut cardboard house for their vocabulary project on living establishments. Challenges ensue, as there are no building directions provided, and there is seemingly only one way to assemble the dollhouses. Through perseverance and hot glue, they arrive at a successful conclusion. Students then use a combination of laser cut and upcycled materials to identify and label household items, allowing them to further explore the unit within their classrooms.

Special Memories
Seventh-grade students use the design thinking process to help memorialize someone in their community with the memory box project. In advisory, they gain empathy by working to truly understand the meaning of items they collected to represent each honoree’s life. They draw initial prototypes, practice their design in cardboard, and lastly create their final design in wood for the public display in February. Several creative and meaningful prototypes are in the works; be sure to look for the display case modeled after a barn to honor someone who grew up on a farm!

In the spring, seventh graders will again use the lab to construct physical representations of personal amendments written for a history assignment. Reflecting upon what values and ideals are important to them, students will put their critical and creative thinking skills to work.

Service Minded
For their redesigned service-learning program, eighth graders use visual and emotional cues from their constituents to map and ultimately identify the needs of their community partners. These will be part of their culminating capstone projects that require each student to identify a United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goal and research a way to help communities reach that goal. Innovative creations in the past have included a filter to keep microplastics from entering waterways, and a water purification system to help prevent schistosomiasis in underdeveloped countries. 

Enhanced Learning
Informally, teachers talk about changing up 20% of what is done in the classroom on a daily basis. While this was only a snapshot of what things look like in middle school, you can see that teachers are continuously engaging with the Gates lab to supplement their lessons and enhance learning. By adapting and taking risks, teachers continue to grow as learners themselves and embody the vision that Charles Gates set forth over 20 years ago. 

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.