VW eLab & STEM Fellows Spotlight: Jennifer Ellis, Hixson Middle School

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

Jennifer Ellis pictured in Hixson Middle School's Volkswagen eLab

Amusement park researching, designing, building, and implementation has been keeping eighth grade students busy recently in the Hixson Middle School (HMS) Volkswagen eLab. Jennifer Ellis is HMS's VW eLab specialist this year, and taught mathematics at HMS for seven years prior to that. Although she has only been in the VW eLab position a few months, she is already enjoying many aspects of the role. “The most rewarding part of being the VW eLab specialist is getting to share new experiences with the students, while giving them the opportunity to test their ideas and create models that are their own designs,” shared Ellis. Similarly, her favorite part when teaching math was getting to participate in the hands-on building that applied math skills. "These students have so many great ideas, and they have such grand designs and expectations.” Ellis emphasized that although some of the students' initial ideas don't work right away, they understand they may have to undergo several iterations before they're satisfied with the outcome of a project. She shared that it's all about the learning process that occurs along the way.

Ellis also has aspirations to join forces with other teachers in this space. “The teachers have been really excited about being able to collaborate," shared Ellis, "and when we can utilize some of the equipment for other classes, I’m all for it.” HMS recently hosted their Humanities Night, which allowed students the opportunity to use the VW eLab to create stickers, buttons, and signs for the event. Ellis also plans to collaborate with language arts teachers in the future. “With sixth grade students, I’m going to try to incorporate something with language arts next semester, so we’re going to see how that works with everyone’s schedule. I’m glad my principal and our academic coach gave me the chance to go into this role. They’ve been very supportive of my ideas or suggestions.

Ellis and her eighth grade students learning in the HMS VW eLab

With sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students in her classroom, Ellis has the opportunity to teach a variety of levels and is enjoying getting the chance to witness how students react to what they're learning. “The students genuinely are excited to create,” shared Ellis. All grades start out with learning the basics of the VW eLab equipment. Currently, eighth grade students have been working on building an amusement park ride and roller coasters for the pa