Chelsea Bandi, a senior at Longmont’s Silver Creek High School, planned to film a full documentary on the STEM education community for her capstone project.
But roadblocks while trying to film various STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — programs around Colorado prompted her to switch to documenting several FIRST Robotics school programs. As a member of St. Vrain Valley’s high school robotics team, she also had connections to programs in California, Massachusetts and the Netherlands.
Then came the ultimate roadblock, the coronavirus pandemic.
With school closures and social distancing requirements shutting down robotics practices and competitions, she found yet another new focus. She’s now editing and posting short videos on Instagram and YouTube to highlight high school seniors in robotics programs for her Gears on the Horizon project.
“Seniors are feeling hurt, but despite the pain this is a great opportunity to spread positivity,” she said, noting more videos will be added soon. “If a senior is interested in a video about their story, I’m going to try my best to make it happen.”
Bandi and the other 24 seniors in Silver Creek’s Leadership Academy were in the home stretch of completing their yearlong capstone projects when schools closed mid-March and stay-at-home orders went into effect.
Carrie Adams, Leadership Academy program director, said the shutdown “really threw several of them for a loop,” given that many seniors had planned final events or culminating activities that are no longer possible.
She said she’s encouraged her students to adapt by using a growth mindset.
“While achieving our goals is an important part of the capstone project, the real takeaway is adapting, learning and growing through the journey,” she said. “Life never really goes as planned. Developing grit in the face of challenge is the greatest skill we can help our future leaders acquire.”
Silver Creek started its Leadership Academy in 2009. Students start freshmen year with a class on foundations of leadership, then a cultural intelligence class as sophomores and a community leadership class as juniors.
Senior year, the focus is on capstone projects. Adams said she’s working on organizing a virtual end-of-year showcase of their work in place of the usual in-person showcase.
Several seniors said they’ve learned the value of perseverance as they found ways to continue their projects.
For her project, senior Hailey Lathrop was teaching a “mini medics” class once a month to fourth graders at Longmont’s Rocky Mountain Elementary School, completing all her planned classes except one before the closures.
Today I filmed a little show-and-tell video for my fourth graders. I told them about how I was born ten weeks early and why that makes me want to be a neonatal nurse. #nurse #minimedics #stayhome 💗👶🏼 pic.twitter.com/P1kfu30X8j
— Mini Medics (@MiniMedicsSCLA) March 24, 2020
She started by teaching what constitutes an emergency and ended with how to perform CPR. Other lessons included how to wash and bandage cuts, splint a supposedly broken bone, respond to a seizure and perform the Heimlich maneuver.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned from this project is that kids are smarter than we think,” she said. “When I started this project I was very uncertain as to whether or not these kids could grasp these skills and actually perform them correctly, but they completely amazed me.”
Her plan for her April lesson was to put together first aid kits with the class. Instead, she assembled a kit at home to use as an example and created brochures with details about the skills covered in her classes, hoping classes would resume.
Now that it’s unlikely schools will reopen for in-person classes before the end of the school year, she said, she plans to assemble all the kits and deliver them to the fourth graders in the future.
“I want these kits to be essential, but also special to the kids,” she said, adding she plans to include stickers so they can decorate the kits and some candy as a treat.
She said the project also reinforced her desire to become a nurse, and she’s planning to study nursing at Augustana University in South Dakota in the fall.
Kayla Miller worked two or three times a week in a third-grade classroom at Longmont’s Eagle Crest Elementary, providing support to teacher Shannon Brennan “wherever and whenever” it was needed.
“I am very passionate about working with children and want to be an elementary school teacher,” said Miller, who she plans to attend Colorado State University in the fall.
Her big project first semester was recording book reviews with the 29 third graders in the class, adding their audio to a self portrait they drew using an app. When the recordings were finished, they were posted on Brennan’s Twitter account.
With the move to remote learning, she now connects with the third graders through the Seesaw app. Many are continuing to record book reviews on their own, posting them for their classmates, she said.
“I read, listen to or watch each book review and post a comment with additional questions, feedback or book suggestions I think the student will enjoy,” she said. “Another way I have been engaging with the students during online learning is by posting riddles every other day for them to solve.”
She’s also planning to put together an end-of-year gift for each student, as well as creating a book documenting her project experiences and challenges.
“This internship has taught me that one of the best things you can do for your students is creating a personal relationship with them,” she said.
Lindsey Slama, who plans to major in biology at Colorado State University in the fall, is using her capstone project to educate teens about dating violence, including how to recognize unhealthy relationships and find resources to safely leave.
She started by displaying posters throughout her school, posting information on social media and giving educational presentations to classes.
In February, for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, she ran a booth at a Chinese New Year event and during school lunch on Valentine’s Day. She also handed out orange wristbands to raise awareness and was interviewed by a reporter from Colorado Public Radio on the stress caused by relationship abuse.
With class presentations no longer an option after school closed, she created a website to share resources and started twice-weekly blog posts. Up next, she plans to record videos covering the topics from her presentations for her website and share them with her school’s health teachers for use during remote learning.
“I have learned that even one person, when they set their mind to it, can have a huge impact on their community,” she said.
Braden Stevens’ project is the Raptor Report, a school video program on upcoming events and activities. With all activities canceled or indefinitely postponed, he’s now focusing on school updates and things students can do while maintaining social distance.
The videos are released every two weeks on YouTube and Instagram.
He credited the project with improving his communication skills, as well as teaching him to creatively edit and present the information in his videos.
“I’ve learned a lot more about video production and have definitely become much more comfortable standing in front of and talking to a camera,” he said.
His plans after high school include a two year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, followed by majoring in mechanical or software engineering at Brigham Young University in Utah.
Bandi’s interest in STEM programs came from her experiences as a member of the districtwide “Up-A-Creek” robotics team. She’s on both the team’s student board and the communication team.
“Joining the team broke me out of my shell and made me realize that I am definitely not an engineer or a programmer, and I am much more passionate about business, leadership and community outreach,” she said. “But, ‘Up-A-Creek’ has also shown me the value of STEM and has opened so many doors for myself and others.”
She’s planning to attend the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder in the fall, adding her capstone project taught her how to be flexible.
“Nothing is ever cookie cutter perfect, and I had to accept that along the way when roadblocks arose,” she said.