The students of Ms. (Robyn) Hill’s fifth-grade class at Snake River Elementary School flexed their inventing muscles over Spring Break. Ms. Hill said in an email that her students had been “having some great conversations … . There are some concerns about other people not being as fortunate in the world as we are here. My class came up with a way to at least create dialogue and concrete possibilities to help.”

The students learned about simple machines (such as a pulley or a lever), and Ms. Hill gave them an assignment and a list of items easily found in a home. The assignment: Use those items to invent something that could help others with limited resources.

Their results are now available to see on YouTube ( and include machines like a supply catapult and a supply zipline, a first-aid kit vending machine, a solar-powered plant incubator and more.

You know, when I was in elementary school, we also had a simple machines unit. My invention had something to do with sliding candy down this spiral chute and it coming out the other end.

It was rather pointless.

But these kids’ results? Far better ideas, all of them, and far better in motivation. They definitely went above and beyond.

They sent in a statement, by the way. Here’s part of it: “Not everyone is as fortunate as we are. Our class thought a great skill for the future was to learn to create simple, natural or recyclable tools to ‘help us all help ourselves.’ We hope that these ideas can help refugees and others around the world to spread creativity, resourcefulness and team work!”

Amen to that!

Local teen poetry included in Our Stories of Transformation publication

The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence selected over 200 poems written by Idaho teenagers for publication in its Our Stories of Transformation Writing Challenge. Apparently thousands of teens submitted poetry, and 28 were chosen for Our Gender Revolution Awards.

Now that you know the numbers, you can be even more impressed when you hear that Middleton High School’s Kenadi Swendsen, Brady Thiessens and Kathryn Wagoner and Vallivue High School’s Aminatu Tall and Lauren VerHagen were all given Our Gender Revolution Awards for their poetry!

Other students whose poems were included in the publication were:

Caldwell High School - Samantha Asbury, Tabitha Elgan, Jocelyne Garrido, Isaac Herrera, Aaliyah Juarez

Middleton High School - Sabrina Bishop, Elaina Buckway, Kali Crawford, Hannah Crossley, Aleah Mendiola

Parma High School - Paige Powers

Ridgevue High School - Alex Shaffer

Vallivue High School - Amira Arias, Ashley Doser, Isabelle Gardner, Jennifer Gil, Samantha Gipson, Ashley Harris, Beau Maimer, Rebecca Mecham, Victoria Torres, Maddie Villarreal, Rachel Wood

Vision Charter School - Jessa Moore

You can read the Our Stories of Transformation Writing Challenge publication online at The topics these students covered ranged from sexual and racial identity to cancer, with a fair number of topics in between.

I wanted to include my favorite lines, but there simply isn’t space. So please, if you love poetry or if you want to get an idea of what youth are going through and thinking about these days, visit that website I gave you.

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