CARLIN – Can a solar pizza oven cook s’mores?

That was the problem faced by Carlin Combined School’s junior high school students as part of an exploratory STEM class and an expansion of the high school’s popular program.

The students were tasked with engineering a solar oven out of a pizza box that would cook s’mores, said STEM adviser and science teacher Melissa Jones.

“Right at the due date the weather cooled off quickly, which increased the students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills to complete the task, knowing that the temperatures weren’t as ideal as the week before,” Jones said.

The students engineered the solar ovens successfully and were able to enjoy gooey s’mores on a moderately warm fall afternoon, Jones said.

“It was fascinating to move from group to group and ask them questions about the construction of their ovens and listen to their excitement of testing their ideas,” said STEM adviser and math teacher Janie Kimble. “You could tell they had put some thought into the materials they used, the color, and even the angle of the box lid.”

Thanks to interest in the problem-based science classes last year, Science Technology Engineering and Math club advisers Jones and Kimble sought approval to incorporate two more STEM classes for high school students and offer one exploratory class for junior high school students.

“Towards the end of last year, several students were approaching me about how to get into the class for the upcoming year,” Jones said. “I realized that the class was engaging and challenging in a manner that they had not been exposed to before and this seemed to be what the students craved.”

“This year we were able to double the number of students that participated in the cardboard boat races, which continues to be a favorite event of the students,” Kimble said.

Carlin’s new principal, T.W. Cunningham, attended the event to support the students as they braved the water on a cool morning with their cardboard boats.

Jones, Kimble and the high school students thanked Nikki Johnson of the Elko Municipal Pool for hosting the event again this year, and lifeguard Katie Kump for keeping watch over the shivering shipmen and women.

The advisers and students also expressed many thanks to the Elko Walmart for their donation of wooden paddles.

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“We elicit feedback from the students for every project to improve for the next time. The students know best on what they enjoyed, what to improve, and how to keep the projects engaging,” said Jones.

In addition, Jones, Kimble and the junior high students gave a special thanks to Tonya Roland of the Carlin Pizza Factory for donating the pizza boxes.

“The generosity of the community is astounding and they truly support the education of our students through their donations given in-kind. We are grateful to be living and working in communities that are so supportive,” Jones said.

Finally, Jones and Kimble also extended a huge thank you to the Elko County School District for approving the addition of these three classes into the list of courses available to the secondary students of Carlin Combined School.

“It is just a joy to hear students proudly tell others that they are working on a project for their hands-on science class; or, that others wish they could be in the class too.”

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