Learning STEMs from fun: FloridaLearns offers interactive program for rural, gifted students

Published: Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 01:57 PM.

When time was called, each of the six groups presented their final project. There are no real grades given, but Crouch and fellow FloridaLearns instructors keep tabs on requirements such as design, height, time and coaster name. Bonus points are given for loops, 90-degree turns and corkscrews.

After points were tallied it was Group 2, and their coaster named The Devil's Drop, that came out winning.

"We kind of designed the roller coaster on the fly," said South Walton High School Sophomore, Logan Daniel.

"We finished with like 26 minutes left," added Paxton High School Sophomore Krysten Pazik.

The program behind the non-traditional classroom activity is Florida 's Rural STEM Education Initiative, which is offered through a grant as part of the Florida Department of Education's Race to the Top program. Twice a semester, gifted and talented students enrolled in the program are treated to a day to exercise their minds in the STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — curriculum.

As students downstairs build roller coasters, another group of Walton County students are upstairs for a leadership development seminar led by Barbara Britt, a certified motivational speaker.

Britt started the seminar by making students dance into the room while Pharrell's "Happy" played in the background.

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