'Breakout' box donation engages students in problem solving
Trailside Elementary School has a unique, out-of-the-box teaching tool thanks to a major donation for the Fuel Your School Program.
Denali Express Chevron and Donors Choose team up every year to award about $100,000 in learning materials to Anchorage teachers.
Health specialist Amy Hallinan requested “Breakout” boxes that simulate an escape room-like experience to help her students with their problem solving skills.
“It's so important because it helps keep the passion and excitement alive, and we can add things that enrich what the students are doing,” Hallinan said.
Students were surprised with the boxes on Friday morning and immediately delved into the scenario: Unlock the box to help the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team recover their missing helmets.
“It's a four digit code on a lock,” said sixth-grader Paige Miller as she worked with her three teammates to crack the codes.
Altogether the boxes add up to about $1,000. The Fuel Your School program aims to provide support resources for STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—education.
“Our thought process is when they receive educational opportunities in that area they will have the knowledge and the skills to compete in the job market in the future,” said Michelle Engelke, general manager of Denali Express Chevron.
They’ve expanded the program to include more than just school supplies. Teachers can pair with students to request materials and for the first time instructors can also ask for “life essentials.”
“Maybe they feel it’s more appropriate they’re buying gloves for their students. Maybe the students’ families can’t afford the gloves,” Engelke explained.
Like many teachers, Hallinan has spent quite a bit of her own money on supplies. She said organizations like Donors Choose help her go beyond the basics to afford literature and even an $800 anatomy model.
“It does get really expensive really fast but it's something we all do as teachers,” Hallinan said. “When Chevron and other places donate we can get the big ticket items. We're going to buy the pencils, we're going to buy the crayons but we're not all going to part with seven or eight hundred for a full body model.”
The students stayed engaged, working together to solve the clues. Miller said she appreciates her teacher’s commitment to making learning more fun.
“I feel really grateful because the breakout boxes are big for me because regular classroom doesn't challenge me enough,” Miller said. “So I get bored a lot when I finish my work and I'm reading a book. This is a better challenge for me.”
Since the Fuel Your School program started in Alaska four years ago it’s donated nearly $500,000 to Anchorage schools.