Students talk about making a positive impact at showcase

Published 12:05 am Sunday, February 19, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — What if you could change your school, your community or the world? Those are the questions students at Rowan-Salisbury Schools have been asking themselves this year.

On Thursday, they got to present their findings in a district-wide problem-based learning showcase, held at the Wallace Educational Forum. Representatives from every school in the district showed off their work and the answers they’d found to issues facing their communities.

“It’s not a right or wrong answer,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Julie Morrow said. “It’s taking a problem and coming up with solutions that are relevant.”

When properly conducted, a problem-based learning project meshes together all aspects of education — from math and science to language arts — and encourages students to think creatively. And by bending all their thought and energy towards an issue that’s relevant to them, students can better retain the lessons.

“They learn at a much deeper level,” Morrow said.

Thursday, students showed off their stuff, cramming in cheek-by-jowl into the Wallace Educational Forum board room with poster board, banners, slideshows, scale-sized models and edible samples.

The projects were the culmination of several weeks, or occasionally months, of work, and covered every topic imaginable — from random acts of kindness to providing shoes to children on another continent.

“Our schools have been working so hard,” Morrow said.

Students at North Rowan Middle kept their gaze local as a class of eighth graders explained that they’d spent time getting to know and making gifts for each other. Rockwell Elementary students redesigned their courtyard and students at Woodleaf Elementary figured out they could save money and the environment by stacking lunch trays in a trashcan, instead of throwing them in haphazardly.

It’s not theoretical learning, either — as Woodleaf demonstrated. Students at Landis Elementary designed a state-of-the-art technology lab using a $5,000 budget, and are seeking grants and funding to make it a reality. Morgan Elementary designed marketing materials to help recruit two new teachers for the 2017-18 school year.

On the other side of the county, students at Rowan County Early College are raising money to help people on the other side of the globe.

Student Rorie Jenkins said her class became interested in working with non-profit organization Profit Wisdom after watching the movie “Poverty, Inc.” and after hearing Nancy Goodnight talk about a trip to South Africa.

“It really inspired us to make a change,” she said.

Jenkins said she learned that when things go wrong, America tends to try to help by throwing money at the problem, which can make communities dependent on outside aid and harm local economies.

Project Wisdom seeks to help in other ways by helping students become good global citizens.

“We aren’t raising money to give, we’re raising money to help,” she said.

Morrow said she was blown away by the work the students had done.

‘They’re bringing it and they’re taking it to the next level,” she said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.