Students show off their smarts

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Georgie D. Tyler Middle School students showcased their classwork during a Tuesday event titled “Exhibition of Deeper Learning.”

“This exhibition is how students are learning,” said Gwendolyn Best, the school’s instructional coach.

More than 50 students were either selected or volunteered to be a part of the exhibition. In total, there were more than 10 exhibits and presentations.

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The projects encompassed science, music, technology, social issues and history.

One of the standouts was the Native American exhibit by the sixth-graders.

The group was designated a hall on the second floor and they covered it with Native American culture.

Student-crafted artifact exhibits lined the hallways, and the classrooms were sectioned off for specific purposes. One of the rooms served as “the village” and the other as a powwow site.

The “village” consisted of a teepee, an igloo and other structures, which were all handcrafted by the students.

Sixth-grader Brianna Maye said the teepee was particularly challenging. She also said the hands-on aspect would make the material she learned more memorable than simply doing worksheets.

“You have to really think about how to make it realistic,” Maye said.

The crowd favorite powwow site involved students, decked out in traditional-looking attire and face paint, performing dances in the center of the classroom. They also invited the children in attendance to perform the dance with them.

“We learn about cultures, and we are working together,” said student Victoria Slick.

“It’s all about the process,” was the theme of the evening, said Kimberly Cussick, sixth- through eighth-grade English teacher.

There was a greater focus on the students’ creative and thought processes rather than the final product.

“They are learning how to work together, they learn how to do multiple drafts and how to get feedback,” said Caitlin Dixon, sixth-grade English and history teacher.

“They’re more invested. This creates memories that helps cement memories in their mind.”

The exhibition was an extension of the county’s push for deeper learning. Dr. Jim Thornton, superintendent of the county’s schools, pushed the idea forward.

“We are going past the minimum standards of the Standards of Learning,” Thornton said.

Students learn “we aren’t just doing this for a grade anymore, it means something,” he said.

The program seeks to incorporate the “Five C’s” — communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and citizenship. Thornton hopes by implementing these qualities into learning, it will help unlock the individual potential in the students and equip them with workforce skills.

“When kids are doing all five of these things in the classroom, they’re learning deeper,” Best said.

Principal Jessica Harding was impressed by the students and their exhibits.

“Because it’s so hands-on, they really get to show people their talents,” she said. “I’ve never seen students take so much leadership.”

The school plans to have another exhibition in April, according to Best.