Eagle Scout Project Benefits Alto Elementary Fourth Grade Classroom

David Johnston is finishing his sophomore year at Lowell High School. He also recently finished his Eagle Scout project as part of Lowell Troop 102. The Eagle Scout project is one of several requirements needed to attain this highest level in Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The assignment is intended to benefit an organization with the community in mind rather than an individual or business.

Selecting a Service Project

Johnston has been in Scouts since he was old enough to join. He started as a Tiger Cub in first grade while attending Alto Elementary School and bridged to Boy Scouts in 5th grade. He looked back to his elementary school years when deciding an augmented reality sandbox would be his project. When completed, the sandbox would be given to Jennifer Bolhuis, a fourth-grade teacher at Alto Elementary, whom Johnston had as a teacher six years ago.

An augmented reality sandbox allows those who use it to take what looks like an ordinary table sandbox and move the contents around as a topographical view is projected onto the box and changes as the sand is moved into different formations. This teaching tool was on the wishlist of things Bolhuis wanted for her classroom and Johnston was eager to deliver. 

Johnston remembers the influence of Bohlhuis on him, especially when it comes to science. “I knew it would help teach science and make it fun.” he says of his project and its recipient. Looking back, his favorite field trip was going to Ludington State Park where he learned about sand dunes and the ecology of the Great Lakes.

Thoughts from a Teacher

Bolhuis has been teaching in Lowell for 27 years, spending her time at Alto Elementary since 2001. She loves the relationships she has formed with her students over the years. “One thing I have found is that each and every child is so unique.” she says. “Yet, one common thread is their desire to succeed and to please all the while hiding their insecurities when having to master a challenging new skill. I absolutely love teaching them tricks and strategies to conquer those challenging tasks.”

“David has always had a strong work ethic. He always tried his best at every task.” Bolhuis says of Johnston. When asked about her students’ reaction to the reception of the gift she comments, “The kids are mesmerized and are solving problems by manipulating the sand which alters the flow of water by shifting the land without even realizing it.  It is an amazing tool for them to have in our classroom.  It really enhances their learning and makes it so much fun!!”

Thinking Outside the Box

There are a lot of do-it-yourself instructions for building an augmented reality sandbox, however, Johnston landed on an example from teacher Craig Beals. Beals’ plans were used as a base and then modified to make the project his own. In addition to building a structure, coding for the ability to project changing landforms was needed as well.

The complex project was made more challenging as it was completed during the pandemic. In the end, it was worth it with Johnston commenting on the best part of the work he put into the project saying, “Delivering it because I got to see Mrs. Bolhuis’s reaction.” It was also a hit with her students who were eager to try it out. “They made me this giant card to thank me and it’s awesome.”

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Although Johnston’s project was difficult, he hopes to encourage other Scouts to “do something that will really make an impact on their community”. He wanted to end his time with Scouts with something “big” as it represents years of work and dedication. He thanks fellow scouts, family, and friends saying, “Lowell Troop 102 has been so much fun and taught me a ton of life skills I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”

Photos courtesy of Cindy Johnston and used with permission.

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