School Spotlight: Monroe Elementary
Every day, about 660 students in grades K-5 make their way to Monroe Elementary, a STEM school in Brooklyn Park.

"We have a nice diversity of cultures represented, and we're very proud of the fact that kids feel welcome here and staff enjoy working here," said Nathan Elliott, a literacy specialist at Monroe.

Those staff members teach kids to push themselves through struggles, because overcoming obstacles is part of the learning process.

"We have been working hard at 'growth mindset,' so we've been teaching kids that you need to push beyond what your normal is," said Lisa Silmser, a fifth-grade teacher. "You need to try to do something better than you did yesterday."

In order to do that, Monroe offers students a variety of hands-on learning activities.

"Yeah so in order for kids to learn best, they need to do the things that they're hearing about and seeing," Elliott said.

On a day when a CCX News reporter was in the building, the students participated in 'STEM electives,' where they could work on projects such as making snowmen out of foam balls, or concocting a Dr. Seuss-style goop, called an "oobleck," with corn starch and dish soap.

"They're experimenting with the ingredients and seeing what's the perfect combination to make their oobleck work and not be too sticky," said Megan Crowley, a second-grade teacher.

The hope is that these experiences help the students develop an interest in STEM fields. And even if they don't, they're still learning the fundamentals of perseverance.

"Work at something, even if it's challenging," Silmser said.

To help prove that point, the students were given the task of trying to set a Guinness World Record with fidget spinners.

"We are simultaneously spinning fidget spinners for one minute, trying to get 650 kids to do it at the same time," Silmser said.

On Dec. 21, the day of the big event, the students received some inspiring words from one of their classmates who was hospitalized after having spinal surgery.

"He had his fidget spinner and he was practicing in his hospital bed," Silmser said, describing the video. "And he wanted to send his team, his school, a message of encouragement. And he said, 'come on, you can be amazing.' It was pretty inspiring."

With those encouraging words in mind, the entire student body packed into Monroe's gymnasium in an attempt to set that world record. Volunteers were armed with iPads to record the students. And when Silmser gave the signal, the students had their chance to make history.

They won't know the results of their record-breaking attempt for several weeks, but they did get an all-important lesson in perseverance.

"We'd love to have a symbol from Guinness that says we are officially amazing," Silmser said. "But we're probably amazing anyway."

Delane Cleveland, reporting

January 4, 2018


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