Coronado's engage the wonder days make learning fun
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Coronado’s wonder days make learning fun

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  • Michelle Reese/Higley Unified School District

Coronado Elementary School Students Put Their Problem-solving, Math, And Science Skills To Use During Their Engage The Wonder Days.Photo Courtesy Higley Unified School District

Analyzing the nutritional content in a meal requires patience. But students at Higley Unified School District’s Coronado Elementary School can do it with ease.

Carefully, older students analyze the informational text and look for caloric and carbohydrate counts while younger ones determine the number of vegetable, dairy and protein items on a plate. Student then create their own “soups,” complete with nutritional information.

Coronado's wonder days make learning fun CoronadoWonderDaysHP

Coronado Elementary School students put their problem-solving, math, and science skills to use during their engage the wonder days.Photo courtesy Higley Unified School District

The mathematics and literacy skills required to complete the tasks follow Arizona’s new Academic Standards – and engage the students in critical order thinking.

That’s what Coronado’s Engage the WonderDAYS are all about. The school created the events this year to introduce students to problem-solving skills and to make science and math fun.

“Other schools are emulating our program to tap into children’s higher order thinking and potential,” Principal Dr. Mai-Lon Wong said. “Coronado Coyotes are learning to apply what they learn to change the real world.”

During the first WonderDAY – titled “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” – students worked on critical thinking problems using raisins. They built food plates according to the food pyramid guidelines, discovered out what foods are grown locally and completed a science project where they made raisins “dance” using soda.

“One thing they really like is the more challenging and fun activities,” said third-grade teacher Tessa McConkey.

The next WonderDAY focused on survival skills and how one would find food and shelter in the wild.

“Me and by buddy pretended to be in the mountains,” said third-grader Rylee Rustad. “We said we needed a snowmobile, a rope and a hammer, and bear fur.”

Recently, students learned how to help others who do not have access to daily meals.

“We put 12 chores in a book. We did chores at home and if we got money, we could give the money to charity,” said third grader Alex Zwiernik. “I like WonderDAY because you get to do fun activities and make stuff.”

Teachers and staff chose the theme – “Feast or Famine” – and designed the WonderDAYS around food growth, nutrition and world hunger. The daylong activities include nutrition analysis, making clay bowls for an “Empty Bowl” fundraiser, learning how to build survival stoves and more. Each activity is geared toward the appropriate age level, with older students teaming up with younger ones throughout the day.

Dr. Wong said the staff worked to create fun, but purposeful events. The shift in the educational standards from personal writing and fictional reading to writing with purpose and literary nonfiction is being tackled through hands-on activities that interest students, as well as challenge them.

“It’s a different way of teaching the new Arizona state standards. What we’re trying to do is make it more accessible for the teachers and the students,” she said. ““We like to think of Engage the WonderDAYS as the Common Core on steroids! We are working on powerful learning that actually changes the way students connect to their world.”