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A garden of children

Touchstone Elementary School kindergarteners create art-tech project

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Among those who worked on the light-up garden at Touchstone Elementary School in Lake Oswego were (from left) kindergarteners Aeden Baker, Chloe Taylor Goalby, Kathleen Praetzler, Sasha Kralik and Nathaniel Wilson.Kindergartener Nathaniel Wilson learned a lesson this summer that some adults never do.

“If you don’t complete the instructions, it won’t work,” says Nathaniel, a student at Touchstone Elementary School in Lake Oswego.

He says he also discovered that mistakes can be fixed, too.

Nathaniel gleaned these lessons from his K-6 private school in the Mountain Park area during a project that has its roots in Massachusetts Institute of Technology curriculum. In May and June, the children worked together to create a light-up garden, a project combining art, technology, programming skills and imagination.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego Touchstone Elementary School kindergarteners created a light-up garden.These kindergarteners took hand-crafted flowers embedded with LED lights, attached them to Arduino-brand microcontrollers and planted them in a faux garden bed, which they set atop a cabinet with glass doors.

In the cabinet, Hexbugs could be spotted roaming about, bumping into a maze of wooden discs, looking like the creatures that live in the ground under a natural garden. The Hexbugs have similar problems to normal insects, which can’t always get to where they need to go.

“Sometimes, the Hexbugs get stuck” in the maze, “and you have to help them out,” Aeden Baker explains.

The Hexbugs’ meanderings are crucial to the display. The children had installed sensors beneath the flowers, so each time one of the micro-robotic bugs wanders under a sensor, a flower lights up.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Hexbugs were key figures in the Touchstone Elementary School light-up garden project.“When the lights turned on, it was pretty,” Chloe Taylor Goalby says.

The flowers sport stems fashioned from vibrantly colored beads, and blossoms shaped from egg crates or coffee filters and adorned with glitter and markers.

Principal Ginger Schaffer and her team collaborated on the project with the leaders and teachers of the Beaverton Touchstone Preschool and LO Touchstone’s sister school, Brighton School, which is in Lynnwood, Wash., near Seattle. Schaffer said Touchstone employs such hands-on projects in all grade levels to enrich curriculum.

This project was perfect for kindergarten, a word which derives from German and means “a garden of children.”

“Hands-on projects allow (school concepts) to come to life and be understood by younger-age students, exciting them about learning — and growing inquisitive minds,” Schaffer said.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The Touchstone kindergarteners took hand-crafted flowers embedded with LED lights, attached them to Arduino-brand microcontrollers and planted them in a faux garden bedThe group project also achieved her school’s goals of teaching children creativity, collaboration and communication, along with 21st-century science, engineering, math and technology skills. Children need to get a base of technology at a younger age to keep up with tech advancements, Schaffer said.

For parents interested in the opportunities available at Touchstone, there’s an open house planned for Aug. 7.

“The world is changing so quickly with the expectations of 21st-century skills,” Schaffer said. “Companies are looking for young adults that have those skills.”

Jillian Daley can be reached at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..