Partnership Plan hosts 13th annual DaVinci Fest


Photo by Nissa Wilcox

Science teacher Rebecca Gauker displays past DaVinci Fest projects around her classroom. Past entries give new participants inspiration for projects to enter into the science festival.

Nissa Wilcox, Layout Editor-In-Chief

The DaVinci Fest is a community event held Jan. 22, at Stillwater Area High School showcasing science, art and upcycling fairs along with a film fest for youth in the St. Croix Valley. The festival is held annually in the winter with the exception of the 2021 festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year changes will be made to accommodate COVID-19 like a mask mandate for all participants and attendees and spacing throughout the festival to allow for as much social distancing as possible.

The DaVinci fest is the only known festival in the area including science, art, upcycling and film. In past years, around 400 entries have been submitted, students may enter more than one entry as well, so the number of participants equates to around 350 students. Participants can enter to have their entry displayed or judged, participants who may opt to have their project judged will meet with a total of three judges throughout the morning.

Along with requiring a mask mandate, some events from the past years have been cut due to COVID-19.

“We normally have a Friday night artists reception for the art area, we’re not doing that this year. This year only the judged art will be in the black box area, and the non-judged art will be either in a hallway or another classroom or somewhere, we haven’t decided exactly where yet . . . we’ve tried to simplify the event as much as possible. From a concept that if we do have to cancel then it’s not as much work as it could have been. So and that’s why we’ve eliminated a few of the extracurricular things that we’re not going to do this year,” Rick Robins, Executive Director of the Partnership Plan said.

I think a lot of teachers to really encourage certain students with student artwork, and give people the opportunity. There’s a lot of flexibility in what level of participation teachers want to be involved in as well as the students.”

— Christina Weese

“The other thing we’re not doing is we normally have an awards banquet at the end of the day on Saturday, and everybody gathers into the auditorium. We’re not having an awards ceremony, we’re just going to announce the winners later. So, some things we’re doing some things differently because of COVID-19,” Robbins added.

The DaVinci Fest Challenge for science will not be done this year as well.

“The DaVinci Fest Challenge is a challenge that’s put out differently each year. It could be building a bridge that holds the most weight. It could be designing an airplane that stays aloft the longest go and students then get together either as a singleton or teams, and they compete against the middle school division and high school division,” science teacher Rebbecca Gauker explained. 

Regardless of the school attended, any student in grades 4th-12th can enter the DaVinci fest if they live within the district 834 boundaries. Students register themselves online through the Partnership Plan, and registration was open Nov. 1 through Dec. 23.

This is the only event that the Partnership Plan has that is open to any student that lives in the geographic area of district 834, no matter what school they attend, they can enter. So whether a student is homeschooled or attend Mahtomedi or Hill Murray, if they live within the district, they can enter the fest individually, Robbins said.

The festival is divided up into two divisions, a junior division for grades 4th-8th and a senior division for grades 9th-12th. Any student qualifying of age may enter any portion of the festival.

We have a junior division, fourth through eighth and then we have a senior division which is ninth through twelfth, and these are usually our two divisions. That’s everything we do except in art, we do accept Kindergarten through third grade but that’s left up to the art teachers in the elementary school to gather some of the best art. They bring it to us and we do display it but it’s not judged,” Robbins added.

Students have the opportunity to either only display their project or have it judged as well. Students who have their work judged will be eligible for prizes in their category and will meet with three judges for interviews on their entry.

Art Teacher Christina Weese lets her students decide whether or not to participate in the juried art show, “my drawing students will all be making a drawing, and my graphic design students, they can choose and I think a lot of teachers to really encourage certain students with student artwork, and give people the opportunity. There’s a lot of flexibility in what level of participation teachers want to be involved in as well as the students.”

Judging will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2022, and the festival will be open to the public from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. later that day. The event will be held at the SAHS and entrance will be through the main rotunda doors with masks required for all. Attendance is free for all with donations encouraged, community exhibitors will be at the event as well, along with several companies championing certain divisions.