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Young ‘makers’ create handmade games to help STEM lessons stick  

Pupils work together on month-long projects 

Byron Center — March is makers’ month in Sherri Newenhouse’s STEM classroom at Brown Elementary.

Project planning for each grade level started at the end of February and classes will work to finish before spring break. 

Kindergartners are making paper computers, first-graders are making paper cell phones and third-graders are making shuffleboards. Second-graders are imagining their own board games and some took inspiration from games they know and love to play.

Second-grader Chloe Prince utilized bright colors and copious amounts of gold glitter glue to create her game, “Sweet Tooth.”

“I thought of (the game) ‘Candy Land’ and thought I could make something like it, but I wanted it to be different than that,” Chloe said.  

‘A big part of STEM is learning how to work together because you have to be able to work with (others) all month long.’

— teacher Sherri Newenhouse

She drew out the game’s winding pathway on poster paper with pencil and then colored it in with markers. To highlight the important spaces on the board, she used glitter glue to make them stand out.

“You win the game by getting as many coins as possible,” Chloe said, while cutting out small paper circles to serve as game coins. 

Two students created a tangible version of a playground game.

“I got the idea from playing ‘Murder Mystery’ with my friends at recess and I thought it would be a good idea for a board game,” second-grader Ashton Weaver said.  

Ashton and his group partner Ethan DeYoung explained how each player of “Murder Mystery” is assigned a character card at the beginning of the game, and as they move across the board, players have chances to guess who is the murderer. 

From Taped-up Hoop to the Death Star 

The second-grade game masters also had to write the rules for their games so other people would know how to play it. 

When the fourth-graders arrived in Newenhouse’s STEM classroom, they got right to work on their arcade games using found and recycled materials. 

“Students can also bring things they find at home and use tape and glue we have in the classroom,” Newenhouse said. 

Fourth-grader Mason Spiech said his group’s motto was “tape is our best friend.” They crumpled up tape and aluminum foil to make a ball for their cardboard foosball game, “Star Wars” edition. 

Fourth-grader William Peters colored ice-pop sticks red and blue to represent lightsabers for each team, the light and the dark sides. 

“The players are the Sith versus the Jedi and the ball is the Death Star,” William said, name-checking classic “Star Wars” characters. 

Group member Mason Spiech added, “You can play one-on-one or two-on-two. We wanted it to be like a restaurant arcade game, a game just to play with friends for fun.”

Another group used a lot of tape to get their basketball hoop to stick to the wall. One student in the group said it was an improvement to their first design, “so it wouldn’t keep falling down.”

At the end of the month, Newenhouse’s classroom will transform into a cardboard arcade for students in other grades to come and play. 

“It’s fun to watch and see what they figure out,” she said. “A big part of STEM is learning how to work together because you have to be able to work with them all month long.” 

Read more from Byron Center: 
A chain reaction of creativity
Students become engineers to design games, including Black Panther and the Brooklyn Bridge

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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