CENTREVILLE — Heather Gray, new media specialist at Kennard Elementary School, has been challenging the process of innovation since arriving at Kennard by transforming the Media Center into the learning hub of the school. This includes a “makerspace” for the creation of various arts integrated project opportunities. And, throughout the month of December, what a better way to introduce an engineering contest than through the art of creating gingerbread houses?

Students were challenged to create their gingerbread house within a set of specific parameters: 1) only recycled materials and select art supplies; 2) it could be no larger than 18”x18”x18”; and 3) no edible or sharp materials.

There are lots of hands-on learning opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding through various art forms popping up within Queen Anne’s County Public Schools. The incorporation of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) across the curriculum within school library Media Centers is also something Gray is very passionate about.

“The school library we are creating at KES is one that prepares our students for the future,” said Gray. “It’s a library that not only teaches information literacy, but habits of mind. This year our students have learned about the Engineering Design Process as part of our makerspace initiative and have been diving into hands-on challenges and projects. I wanted families to be able to experience the passion, creativity and perseverance I’ve seen here at school with this contest.”

Not surprisingly, the students rose to the occasion and amazed Gray with their creations.

Gray said one of the most challenging constraints of the challenge was that students were only permitted to use recycled materials and limited art supplies.

A winner was selected for each grade level. Peyton Ayala won the third grade prize. Delany Tillery won the fourth grade prize, and Layla Rada won the fifth grade prize.

“We saw every possible recycled material from newspaper and wrapping paper, to broken jewelry and old wires,” said Gray. “There was so much creativity.”

Delany Tillery, the fourth grade winner, even rewired a broken flashlight to a clothespin to create a light for her gingerbread house. Every single entry was incredibly impressive, judges said. The staff really struggled to choose winners because they were all so well designed, and this garnered a lot of positive feedback from families.

“Mrs. Gray is a welcome addition to a very talented school library media staff across the district, and this will definitely become a new winter contest tradition for KES,” said supervisor Michael Bell. “The interesting thing students learn through challenges like this is that sometimes your limitations can fuel your ultimate inspirations. Congratulations to the winners, Mrs. Gray, Mrs. (Michelle) Carey, and to all students who participated.”

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