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The Blair Flair explored new territory, turning the annual event into an extension of an educational theme at the Waukesha elementary school this year.

Dubbed the Blair Innovation Flair, the May 19 event put the emphasis on 'innovation,' with students dancing, playing, creating and designing their way through a public exhibition of education.

Principal Aida Cruz-Farin said that the school based the day's events on the interest and focus of the students, one of which was innovation, an educational theme at Blair.

Day and night

There were actually two parts to the event — a portion earlier in the school day for students and the two-hour late afternoon fair that was open to the public.

The young scholars had a morning filled with challenges that centered around design, science and engineering, Blair technology integrator Laura Busch explained. Classroom events during the day included certain collaborative challenges — like building a boat that could carry 10 pennies.

'We've always had the Flair daytime challenges,' Busch said. 'All of the challenges were collaborative, made for groups to solve or create something.'

That led into the afternoon community event, which showcased the students' efforts.

In addition, the afternoon event included vendors and attractions from outside the school. In addition to the student activities, there were tables of delicious and diverse food, a reflection of the student body population.

For instance, fifth-grader Asma Charvakova and her younger brother, a first-grader, hung out by their mother's table, where there was always a few people in line to try the homemade Turkish food. And right behind her was a table selling guajillo pepper marinated buns stuffed with meat, lettuce and other vegetables.

In effect, the Blair Flair, as in the past, focused on community involvement and served as a mini-fundraiser as well. (Each table pays a small fee to be there, and each ticket sold goes back into the school.)

Ways to innovate

But innovation stations were the highlight of this year's Blair Flair.

While providing something for everybody, the innovation-centric day promoted problem solving, creativity and critical thinking — skills that Cruz-Farin believes are essential for young scholars to be college and career ready.

The playground of the elementary school was packed with ways to explore creativity and to initiate innovation. There were tables set up with engineering design challenges, like the nerdy derby, which required participants to make a race car out of cardboard, taking into consideration things like aerodynamics and speed.

'We're thinking lower the wheels so they won't wobble,' Luis Cruz said, 'and yeah, make it go fast — well, as fast as cardboard can go.'

Cruz and his nephew, Miguel LaRue, worked together to create a car, including details like straws to resemble pipes (for aesthetic) and a slim cardboard body.

Second-grader Miguel's favorite part? The headlight that the students put on the car. He made the small blue light at another station, picking a cup with the blue dot to determine the color.

'All year we are exercising design thinking,' Cruz-Farin said, 'and how we can service scholars and use innovation to make a difference in the world.'

And while the stations provided creative design fun, including a whisper phone, keychain and T-shirt design, some students, like fifth-grader Ruben Escobedo, preferred the more active options. Escobedo liked playing soccer with his friends and with the Waukesha North girls soccer team.

Some of the more musically inclined students boogied to music put on by two DJs during a Zumba inspired choreographed number.

In her fifth year as principal of Blair, Cruz-Farin said that the event will only continue to get bigger and bigger, and the innovation theme will continue as they move forward and as they work to prepare students for what lies ahead.

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