At Kreiva Academy, in the heart of downtown Manchester, students receive highly personalized, project-based educational instruction. Head of School Jennifer Siegfried explains that the public charter school focuses on experiential, real-world applications for students in grades six through twelve. “We look at the holistic needs of students and work to meet them where they’re at,” she says.
Enter UNH Extension.
In January 2022, UNH Extension’s STEM Discovery Lab began a 10-week collaboration with Kreiva based on a STEM curriculum featuring marine engineering with an emphasis on teamwork.
“I’m in awe of what we were able to see in terms of growth through collaboration and having UNH as a thought partner with our students. It helped our curriculum come alive this trimester. I can’t express how grateful we are. It awoke problem-solving skills in students we haven’t seen participate all year,” says Siegfried.
The STEM Discovery Lab, run by Sarah Grosvenor and Megan Glenn, designs and implements STEM education pathways for youth in grades K-12 through college, in addition to providing professional learning programs to prepare and retain highly skilled K-12 STEM volunteers, informal educators and teachers.
Through the partnership with Kreiva, thirty pairs of students learned how to build underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) via a national program called SeaPerch. The vehicles were made from low-cost, common materials like PVC pipes and then tested through underwater challenges.
Two Kreiva students — Savannah Escalvera and Fig Bellemare — participated in the Seacoast SeaPerch Regional Competition held at UNH’s Swasey Pool in April 2022.
“Driving the SeaPerch resonated with me because it reminded me of special times with my dad when I was younger — building remote controlled cars, but the water ROV is more challenging because you have to deal with the buoyancy and angles,” says Bellemare. “I even took the SeaPerch home after the competition and rebuilt it and continued to test it to get it to work even better...Seaperch has brought back that childlike curiosity to figure out how things work. SeaPerch even helped me understand how to jump-start a car!"
Extension’s collaboration with Kreiva was sparked by an initial meeting through the Granite United Way Youth Enrichment Partnership. Eighty percent of Kreiva’s students live in Manchester and the other twenty percent of students come from 15 towns as far south as the Seacoast and as north as Tilton.
“Every student creates their SeaPerch and constantly looks at how to improve it so it can work most effectively, using critical thinking skills. No two SeaPerch vehicles are going to be alike in the end because the students are going to customize them in their own way,” says Siegfried.
With Extension’s help, students have honed skills of persistence and adaptability through the process of inventing. It’s a partnership that Siegfried plans to continue. “What an amazing opportunity for a school,” she says. “It is a way to help students think outside the box. It is a way to go beyond what a teacher may be able to do within the bounds of a traditional classroom setting. Our hope is through this hands-on, minds-on approach we get kids excited to come to school…But we can’t do this alone. We need partners to do this work.”
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