inspired learning day

Mendon-Upton Regional School District Holds Inspired Learning Design Challenge

MENDON — Superintendent Maureen Cohen is pleased to share that the Mendon-Upton Regional School District recently held a successful District-Wide Inspired Learning Design Challenge. 

Students in all four District schools took part in the Inspired Learning Design Challenge on Thursday, Feb. 9. Students were encouraged to think creatively while participating in the Zip Line Challenge, where teams had to design a mechanism that would travel down a zip line and drop an action figure in a designated spot. 

The problem-based challenge, the first of two annual Inspired Learning Day events in MURSD, was created to engage students in a meaningful way with the MURSD Portrait of a Learner competencies.

The challenge began with a reflection period, where students were prompted to choose one of the six Portrait of a Learner values they identified with the most. The values include Global Citizen, Effective Communication, Solution Seeker, Mindful Learner, Skillful Collaboration, and Inspired Innovator. 

"We began with Portrait of a Learner so that students could see themselves in the competencies and then leverage their strengths to solve problems and contribute to a team," said Director of Technology Integration David Quinn. "I was continually impressed by the students’ solutions-oriented conversations as they tinkered with their designs based on their observations from the prior zipline run."

Students were then allocated nearly an hour to create their designs. The mechanisms were crafted using a wide array of materials, such as cardboard, pipe cleaners, balloons, rulers, tape, string, and plastic bottles.

Students at Nipmuc Regional High School took the challenge in the morning, where 45 teams went head-to-head in the gymnasium for the preliminary rounds. Four teams, one from each grade level, moved on to the final round. After some close competition, the junior team from Ms. Miklavic’s class was declared the Design Challenge Champions. 

The winning students were: Joe Antoun, Amelia Cahill, Max Chiaradonna, Sera DeBaggis, Nickolus Gilbar, Isabella Hughes, Casey Keyes, Lucas Lashus, Meghan McCobb, Matthew Pace, Nathaniel Priest, Chanell Rodriguez, Janelle Scirocco, Lillian Sweeney.

While at the high school, the teams competed, the zip-line challenge took on an entirely different outcome at the middle school and elementary school levels.

Superintendent Cohen visited all of the grade levels on the Inspired Learning Day and noted:  “One of our goals of the district inspired learning day challenge was for students across all grade levels to not only display various Portrait of a Learner competencies through the challenge, but to truly bring it to life. When I walked into a kindergarten classroom and saw our kindergarten students as active solution-seekers testing out their design, our first-grade students showing me their various designs, our fourth-grade students grabbing my hand and saying, ‘come watch how we designed for speed and safety!’ I knew we had positive momentum with connecting to our competencies.”

“The Challenge really does help students get inspired about their learning. They can take initiative, identify the PoL competencies that resonate with them, and have fun while doing it,” said Superintendent Cohen. “Congrats to all of our winners, but also to the entire Mendon-Upton school community for holding such a successful challenge.”

All challenge winners were awarded free passes to Treetop Adventures, which served as a partner of the event.

Students at Nipmuc Regional High School test their mechanism ahead of the school's preliminary rounds. (Photo Courtesy of Mendon-Upton Regional School District)

Nipmuc Regional High School juniors and their advisor, Leigh-ann Miklavic, pose as a team with their winning mechanism. (Photo Courtesy Mendon-Upton Regional School District) 

Posters created by students at Memorial Elementary School outline what it means to engage in different values of MURSD's Portrait of a Learner. (Photo Courtesy Mendon-Upton Regional School District)

Nipmuc Regional High School students watch as their mechanism glides toward the target during the Zip Line Challenge Final. (Photo Courtesy Mendon-Upton Regional School District)

Students from Miscoe Hill Middle School assemble their mechanism. (Photo Courtesy Mendon-Upton Regional School District)

Nipmuc Regional High School students eagerly wait to see if their action figure will land on the target. (Photo Courtesy Mendon-Upton Regional High School)

Students at Memorial Elementary School plan their designs ahead of the Zip Line Challenge. (Photo Courtesy Mendon-Upton Regional School District)