A Thriving Partnership with Estes Thrives
By Jessica Dieken
Innovative education is so much more than teaching kids with new technology. At the OtterCares Foundation, we believe innovative education is all about identifying unique ways to educate students and encouraging new ways of thinking. We know educators have a unique opportunity to inspire youth to think differently and we are excited to work with not only educators that teach students to think outside the box, but we’re excited to work with schools and nonprofits too.
Through partnership with the Estes Park School District, we’re supporting innovative education that inspires tomorrow’s philanthropists through the pilot program, Estes Thrives. This pilot program is a youth driven initiative that brings students and community together to work on projects that create bright futures for the students, the school district and the town itself. Estes Thrives encourages students to come up with new and innovative ideas for projects that directly impact their community. From there, students are connected with mentors that provide tools, guidance and support to help the student’s ideas come to life. This year, the Estes Thrive program identified three projects for students to complete: The Tile Mural Project, The Electric Guitar Project and The Bike Charger Project.
This project was hosted by the Estes Park Middle School art department and students were tasked with updating an older, incomplete mural project from 2006. Each middle school student was paired with an elementary school student through a collaborative mentoring program called Bobcat Buddy. Each pair of students discussed, brainstormed and sketched ideas for their tiles using inspiration from sounds, motions and equipment in their surroundings. The tiles were then glazed and sent to the kiln for firing. Once all tiles were completed, they were installed at Timberline Medical Center where students continue to enjoy them on a daily basis.
The Electric Guitar Project
This project was hosted by Todd Burke, a High School Science teacher. “The project was simple: have students build their own electric guitars.” Students began with choosing a type of guitar that they wanted to build. From there, the instrument was built from the ground up using woodworking and electrical engineering. Throughout the build process, students were taught the physics of sound, the fundamentals of music such as octaves and harmonies and they even built simple speakers and pickups using magnets and wires! The student feedback received was phenomenal with several students expressing their joy for the class and some even noting that the skills they learned they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
“From my teacher’s perspective, it is tremendously satisfying to see students who are enthusiastic about creating something for their future, who help each other to stay safe and learn, who express their appreciation and demonstrate it every day by taking pride in cleaning up,” Mr. Burke said. “I wish all of my work in education was more like this experience.” Helping students learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship is key to inspiring them to take a hobby or passion and turn it into a real business!
This project was taken on by a group of students for their “Change the World” project; students wanted to create a product that would charge iPads during the school day without the use of electricity. Using an engineering design process, students used hand-crank radios and bicycles to design a charger powered by mechanical energy. Hand-crank radios were disassembled and the generators were removed and mounted onto the bike frames. As the bicycle wheels turned, the generators transferred mechanical energy into electrical energy which charged the iPad batteries.
For the first big test, the bikes were displayed at the Estes Park Mountain Festival. Unfortunately, the students spent the day re-soldering wires as they kept breaking, although that did lead to great discussions around the design process and areas of improvement for the future. A select group of students have shown continued interest in this program and will be exploring it in more depth in the future.
We are proud to support great programs like Estes Thrives and we’re excited to watch this program grow in the future. Click here to learn more about the Estes Thrive pilot program.