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Marymount’s ‘Come Alive’ Event Inspires Student Creativity, Ingenuity

There is nothing like children’s creativity. This was certainly the case at Marymount of Santa Barbara’s recent "Creativity, Engineering and Coding Come Alive" event.

The day, broken up into different sections, gave fifth- through seventh-grade students from all over Santa Barbara the opportunity to try their hands at a number of different 21st century activities.

During the event, teacher and learning specialist Matt Kustura, said, “Every single student’s solutions have been completely different,” referring to a station where kids engineered “spaceships” capable of delivering a payload on target.

Marymount science teachers Hannah Sener and Jannine Tuttle oversaw a maker place station in one of Marymount’s new ilabs, spaces created at the school to enhance learning across the curriculum. On Saturday, the ilabs served as a maker space in which students built cars that could handle extreme conditions of a new planet.

Students were taken through a Design Thinking process that started with empathy — “What do the people inside my car need to be safe on this new planet?” — then to testing, and eventually building a prototype. Working in teams and using the same materials, every team came up with a unique design. The students then shared their designs with the group and learned from one another.

Marymount Head of School Andrew Wooden explained Marymount’s new Design Thinking program in more depth: “Design Thinking is not just about kids building things, but about learning to approach challenges of all kinds, learning to use and trust trial and error, and finding creative solutions to problems.”

It is doubtful that students were thinking about Susie Mesure’s UK Independent attention-getting headline, “Get Coding people: It’s the New Mandarin,” or her line, “Forget Mandarin and don’t bother with Arabic. To get ahead in 2014 it’s all about Java and Ruby, if not Python and PHP … This is the year of the code.” They were thinking about the cartoon characters they were creating on their laptops, and they were having fun. To them, the fact that they were also learning to code was a side benefit. The fun was evident as well in the collaborative Minecraft session in which kids worked together to build a house on another planet.

The well-attended May 17 event is sparking off several more events, most notably Coeylen Barry will be coming to Marymount this summer from Stanford’s d.School. Barry, a highly respected expert in 21st century learning, will be coming to Marymount to work with teachers and staff to further enhance the effectiveness of Marymount’s Design Thinking curriculum and use of new spaces such as the ilabs and the Creative Design and Engineering Center scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2014.

Marymount is an independent coeducational school, junior kindergarten through 8th grade, on a picturesque 10-acre campus nestled on the Santa Barbara Riviera. For 75 years, Marymount has prepared young people for the academic challenges of high school and college, while laying the foundation for life-long character, achievement, and love of learning.

If you are interested in learning more about Marymount or scheduling a tour, please contact the Admission Office at [email protected] or 805.569.1811 x131.

— Molly Seguel is the director of admission for Marymount of Santa Barbara.

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