Fifth grade students at Lowell Elementary are expressing themselves artistically — and using science and learning tools provided by a nonprofit to help them do it.

That nonprofit is Destination Imagination, an organization that provides elementary school students with program guides to help the students turn their imaginative ideas into reality by combining the arts and sciences. 

"It teaches the kids about creative processes while immersing them in hands-on science learning," Christopher Steege, Destination Imagination supervisor at Lowell Elementary, said. "The goal is basically to give them tools to innovate."

Back in October, six students at the elementary school — Allegra Steege, Jade Steege, Evelyn Malsberger, Maya Geer, Emerson LaPorta and Harrison Armus —  declared their science group as the "Sonic G Waves" and decided to participate in one of the Destination Imagination challenges that was scheduled to happen in early March. That challenge includes telling a story using engineered elements, with judging based on technical designs and artistic presence.

Other requirements included that one, the setting take place in an unlikely space and two, the students create their own props.

Steege's daughters, Allegra and Jade, are both fifth graders at Lowell Elementary. When they expressed interest in participating in the club, it made sense to volunteer as a supervisor, Steege said.

But the adults keep things as hands off as possible, he added.

"I help them use the tools and keep an eye on them and make sure they're working safely," he said. "But they really take the initiative to learn how to do these things on their own."

The story that the students decided to tell takes place in the mind of the earth's president — played by Jade — where she has to decide the outcome of what will soon be an eight-day week.

"Our story takes place in the future where a comet is about to hit our earth," Evelyn Malsberger said. "This is going to effect our orbits, adding another day onto our weeks."

But will the extra day be used as another work day or as an extension of the weekend? The students answered this question by using a set of tools they created to help the president make up her mind and push her towards a "growth mindset," which — of course — would mean declaring the extra day as a part of the weekend.

Those tools included a "Reverberation Chamber" — a cylinder chamber made with recycled cardboard that amplifies sound when someone speaks into it. In their story, the tool amplifies the neurons inside of Jane's head, helping her to think about her decision.

Another tool is a working hover-board referred to as a "flying stingray," which was created by using a leaf blower and recycled wood. They students learned how to create the functioning hover-board at a workshop event in Los Angeles, where other Destination Imagination members were able to attend and learn.

Other imaginative tools include a face mask that allows Jade to see, smell and hear in virtual reality, as well as an adjustable set that portrays the inside of Jade's mind on one side, and the futuristic world she is representing on the other.

"Almost everything we did, we didn't get right the first time," Steege said. 

Although the Sonic G Waves were showcasing their gadgets and new creative skillsets, they were also telling a story, and their cumulative efforts earned them the first place trophy for their category.

Or maybe it was because Jade declared the newfound extra day of the week as part of the weekend.

The next competition takes place on Saturday, April 7, at Buchanan High School, 1560 N Minnewawa Ave., Clovis, Calif.

For more information about the program, go to destinationimagination.org.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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