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Leprechaun traps teach hands-on STEM skills at Plumas Charter School

By Ingrid Burke

Special to Plumas News

[email protected]


Everyone knows that when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, leprechauns are out and about. Students at Plumas Charter School’s Greenville Learning Center accepted a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) challenge to build a leprechaun trap and “catch that pesky pest!” said teacher Jennifer Van Acker.

Fifth- and sixth-graders were free to design the trap however they chose, as long as they met several requirements. Each trap had to include at least one of the simple machines the class had discussed the day before: the inclined plane, screw, wedge, wheel and axle, lever, and pulley.

Next, students were required to draw a diagram of their trap, including labels and identification of the simple machine(s) used. Finally, they needed to list their materials, explain how the trap would work, and present and demonstrate their trap for the class.

“All the students really put forth the effort into making their traps,” said Van Acker.

The next time they were on site, the students shared whether they were able to catch any leprechauns. “Unfortunately, that leprechaun outsmarted us all!” said Van Acker. “That sneaky little gold-loving leprechaun escaped everyone’s creative trap! Darn the luck!”

Combining STEM concepts with writing and public speaking skills, based around a hands-on project that engages students, is an example of PCS’s mission to provide personalized education that develops lifelong learners.

“Such a fun time was had by all!” said Van acker. She added that she is inspired by two quotes: “Education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of a fire” (W.B. Yeats) and “The mind that opens up to a new idea never returns to its original size” (Albert Einstein).

Plumas Charter School also operates learning centers in Quincy, Taylorsville, and Chester. For more information, visit plumascharterschool.org.

Ingrid Burke is the public relations specialist for Plumas Charter School.

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