Real-world problems tackled
■ Discovery students come up with answers.
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.”
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.