Real-world prob­lems tack­led

■ Dis­cov­ery stu­dents come up with an­swers.

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Janelle Jessen Staff Writer jjessen@nwadg.com ■

Sixth-grade Dis­cov­ery stu­dents took on real world prob­lems in the com­mu­nity for their class projects last se­mes­ter.

The 30 sixth-grade stu­dents formed nine groups and took on projects that ranged from cre­at­ing a smart phone app for The Gar­den in Siloam Springs to putting to­gether a spread­sheet to track sup­plies for the Bright Fu­tures pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to teacher Stephanie Harper. Dis­cov­ery is the school district’s gifted and tal­ented pro­gram.

The sixth-graders kicked the project off with a com­mu­nity field trip that in­cluded a walk­ing tour of the down­town area. From there they de­cided what projects to fo­cus on, Harper said. The as­sign­ment was based on pro­ject­based learn­ing, which seeks to teach stu­dents to solve real world prob­lems so they can learn 21st cen­tury skills, she said.

Ash­ley Drake, An­drew Pilcher and Riley Bell cre­ated a por­ta­ble mu­ral, painted on a flex­i­ble cot­ton can­vas, for the Siloam Springs Pub­lic Li­brary’s chil­dren’s area. The mu­ral fea­tures a back­ground of zen doo­dles de­pict­ing whim­si­cal ob­jects such as pyra­mids, cas­tles and even the moon. In the fore­ground, the mu­ral has the word “Read” in bold, col­or­ful let­ters. The group pre­sented their mu­ral to the li­brary on Tues­day morn­ing.

Drake said the mu­ral was de­signed to en­cour­age kids to explore the world through books. She said the project taught her that work­ing in groups can be chal­leng­ing, but that it is a good ex­pe­ri­ence.

“(I learned) that help­ing the com­mu­nity is a good thing and more peo­ple should do it,” she said.

Sixth-graders Kelsey My­ers, Kate Kel­ley, Wil­son Cun­ning­ham and Hen­ley Smith started a men­tor­ing pro­gram for third­grade stu­dents at South­side Ele­men­tary School. They vis­ited the school once a week and did team build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties with the stu­dents, Smith said.

Cun­ning­ham said the project taught him that teach­ing is a lot more dif­fi­cult than it looks.

Kel­ley es­pe­cially en­joyed the re­la­tion­ships she built with the younger stu­dents.

“It made me feel re­ally good,” Kel­ley said. “It was so much fun, I en­joyed it.”

Stu­dents Ja­cob Pe­lima and Kea­gan Hansen de­cided to take on a project fo­cused on mar­ket­ing The Gar­den in Siloam Springs. Hansen ex­plained they cre­ated posters and brochures to help raise aware­ness about the gar­den, since many peo­ple are not aware that the re­source ex­ists.

Pe­lima said the project taught him the im­por­tance of mar­ket­ing — that if a per­son starts a busi­ness, they need to make sure ev­ery­one knows about it.

An­other group cre­ated a web­site for the gar­den linked to a QR code posted at the gar­den. When the code is scanned with a smart phone, it brings up a map of the gar­den with

T hey need to see how they can help their com­mu­nity. Their com­mu­nity pro­vides a lot for them, so it’s al­ways im­por­tant for our kids to give back. A lot of places they con­nected with were places they had been to or had af­fected them in some way. Stephanie Harper Sixth-grade teacher

all the plants, meth­ods of har­vest­ing the plants and recipes re­lated to the plants, Harper said.

Other groups fo­cused on projects such as fundrais­ing for Tail­wag­gers and or­ga­niz­ing an art show, Harper said. When the projects were com­plete, stu­dents wrote speeches in­spired by the for­mat of TED Talks and worked with the high school stu­dents to film the speeches.

“I think it’s so im­por­tant to push our kids into speak­ing elo­quently,” Harper said. “There’s go­ing to be a time in your life when you are go­ing to have to do it.’

Harper said the projects helped her stu­dents move for­ward de­vel­op­men­tally as they saw the big­ger world around them. They also taught stu­dents to be more ser­vice ori­ented.

Many of the stu­dents in the Dis­cov­ery pro­gram do re­ally well in school, work hard and are high achiev­ers, Harper said. She is hope­ful the projects showed them how im­por­tant it is to re­turn the sup­port their com­mu­nity gives them.

“They need to see how they can help their com­mu­nity,” she said. “Their com­mu­nity pro­vides a lot for them so it’s al­ways im­por­tant for our kids to give back. A lot of places they con­nected with were places they had been to or had af­fected them in some way.”

Janelle Jessen/Her­ald-Leader

Sixth-grade Dis­cov­ery stu­dents Ash­ley Drake and An­drew Pilcher, along with their teacher, Stephanie Harper, pre­sented a por­ta­ble mu­ral to the Siloam Springs Pub­lic Li­brary on Tues­day. Not pic­tured is Riley Bell, who also helped with the project. The mu­ral was one of nine com­mu­nity projects com­pleted by sixth-grade Dis­cov­ery stu­dents.

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