by Tanna Kincaid  | Submitted Photos

If you overlook their size and adorable child voices, third and fourth graders in three classrooms at Bismarck Public Schools could be mistaken for professional entrepreneurs and business think-tank teams. Teachers across the district are seeing rewards in student passion, deep thinking, creativity, and collaboration through their implementation of more inquiry-based challenges.

Kerry Mosset, a third grade teacher at Prairie Rose Elementary School, challenged her third graders to come up with an idea they felt would benefit society. Students took their idea and formed it into a “pitch” that was presented to their class and others (similar to the television show  “Shark Tank”). Students identified a topic, determined why it was important and what they would need to know to further develop their idea, and then how they would measure success. Student topics included a robotic hat that helps with everyday tasks, a website that connects orphans to forever families, a culinary goal to make donuts both delicious and healthy, and a design goal to make gymnastics more accessible to those with disabilities. As students presented, the “audience” provided feedback on the pitch and what they liked or thought could be improved.

Across town at Sunrise Elementary School, fourth grade teachers Andrea Frovarp and Katie Babcock engaged students in a challenge to create original, innovative energy prototypes that would save money on energy cost and use. The idea generation, research skills, energy science knowledge, and teamwork of these students makes the future look bright. The teams pictured were designing prototypes that leveraged wind energy and solar energy.

The students in these classes and others across the district are learning to apply a variety of academic skills as well as skills in collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity to solve complex problems. These students use technology as a tool throughout the projects and with seamless competence. Whether they are researching, collaborating on a digital presentation, or preparing a multimedia product to present, they access and use the technology when it is helpful to their goal.   

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Tanna Kincaid is the Director of Technology for Bismarck Public Schools. She holds a Ph.D. from Syracuse University and has been involved in educational technology most of her career.  She and her husband have two children.