Sunset Elementary School students put learning to creative use | CraigDailyPress.com

Sunset Elementary School students put learning to creative use

Moffat County School District students craft creative projects for the Destination Imagination Western Slope Tournament

Michael Neary

The Real Deal, a Sunset Elementary School team, participated in the Destination Imagination Western Slope Tournament on Saturday. The team took first place in the Structural Challenge category and was invited to participate in the upcoming state tournament. The team also won the Renaissance Award. ​Back row: Roark Browning, left, Wyatt Tucker, Alexis Jones, Mena Tucker; front row: Blake Tupa, Jolene Rhyne, Hudson Jones.

As students from Sunset Elementary School worked on projects for the Destination Imagination Western Slope Tournament, they had to exercise tremendous creativity to solve out-of-the-ordinary problems. The tournament, held at Rifle High School this past Saturday, was designed to help students apply academic concepts in unusual ways.

The students poured their energy into — among other things — a vehicle that could move in multiple ways and carry a student, a structure that could carry a lot of weight and also act as a musical instrument and a story that involved a mysterious stranger, confined spaces and other small details. The students worked on their projects for several months before Saturday's tournament, and they worked on an instant challenge during the day of the event.

Students clustered into three teams to compete in the tournament: The Racers, The Real Deal and Improving Improv (also known as Improving Improvers). All placed well within their groupings. The Racers placed third of seven teams in the Technical Challenge category; the Real Deal placed first in Structural Challenge, and Improving Improv placed second in Improvisational Challenge.

The Real Deal also won the Renaissance Award, — which goes to teams for exceptional design or performance.

Both The Real Deal and Improving Improv teams were invited to the state competition in Denver next month.

"This is kid work, not grown-up work," said Cheryl Arnett, who organized the teams. "They have to solve the challenge with no interference from the outside."

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Arnett worked for Sunset Elementary School for 29 years — 22 as a teacher — before retiring at the end of last school year.

Caitlyn Adams, a third-grader, noted the way the students also learned to work together, encouraging and nudging each other as they worked on their projects. She and two other students talked about their work on Monday.

"If someone's off, you say, 'Come on, we need to get working,'" Caitlyn said.

Third-grader Hannah Kilpatrick also stressed teamwork.

"You learn how to work as a team and cooperate with each other, because sometimes, things can go a little crazy," Hannah said.

Caitlyn and Hannah are part of the Improving Improv team.

Wyatt Tucker, also in third grade, is a member of The Real Deal team. Wyatt talked about the way the project allowed students to do things they don't normally do in class.

"Usually in class, you don't have to make a structure," Wyatt said, explaining the way he and his teammates devised a sturdy structure that could play guitar-like music.

Dana Gregory, who served as the team manager for The Racers, helped students learn concepts he absorbed from his education as a mechanical engineer and some 40 years working in the engineering field. He introduced concepts such as propulsion to the students, but said the work was ultimately theirs.

"It's amazing how sharp and how thirsty for education these young people are," Gregory said. "You start with the basic parts and keep building that foundation."

Chris Jones was team manager for The Real Deal, and Grant Laehr acted as team manager for Improving Improv. Tom and Beth Gilchrist were judges at Saturday's tournament, and Jeremy Browning, of Chaos Ink, created and donated shirts for the students to wear, using a design crafted by the students.

Other participating students included Hudson Jones, Jolene Rhyne, Alexis Jones, Mena Tucker, Roark Browning, Blake Tupa, Aaron Colby, Carson Laehr, Grady Wooden, Travis Lefevre, Layne Tupa, Gabriel Lowther and Aaron Gregory.