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Nov. 23, 2016
Fifth and sixth grade students at Northwest Missouri State University’s Horace Mann Laboratory School not only got an opportunity this fall to practice their research skills but a lesson in citizenry and social justice, too.
Horace Mann fifth and sixth grade instructor Sarah Winans tasked the students with choosing a topic about which they are passionate and had them apply it to social justice issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. The students conducted interviews with experts at the University and in the community. They wrote formal papers based on their research and then produced videos, brochures and posters to show what they learned. Some of them also drafted pledges or wrote letters to leaders connected to their topics.
While Horace Mann places an emphasis on project-based learning, Winans said she chose the project to align with Northwest’s Strategic Goal No. 3: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the University’s values of practicing civility and pride.
“I really wanted them to experience what citizens should do if they care about an issue,” Winans said. “So they learned how to research it and then share that information in lots of different ways.”
The 12 students in Winans’ class on Tuesday presented their work to families and community memories during a forum at the J.W. Jones Student Union. Students explored issues that included social media and cyber bullying, food insecurity and offensive costumes.
Ethan Scott researched ways to make golf more accessible to people who are disabled or can’t afford to play the game; he interviewed Kyle Easter, head professional at the Mozingo Lake Recreation Park golf course, and drafted a letter to the Professional Golfers’ Association. Ella Schulte researched Title IX, interviewed Bearcat soccer coach Trazy Hoza and wrote a letter about the issue to ESPN.
“They could truly in an authentic way experience what citizens should do in our community,” Winans said. “I wanted them to know if there’s an issue they are concerned about or they believe in that they can be a part of the change, that they have a voice and how to collect the information they need to give power to that voice – and that the community will support them because so many people helped contribute to their projects.”
Northwest students practicing to become teachers also were involved in the project, creating lessons through which the Horace Mann students learned to build and produce the presentations that supplemented their research.
“It’s been really cool to see the students own the project,” said Haley Riffle, a Northwest senior from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, who is majoring in elementary education with emphasis in English and special education. “Thinking about getting ready to teach, it’s been really cool to see how the students did a lot of their learning and explored things themselves. They are the ones that learned about this instead of the teachers standing in front of the classroom and talking about each issue. They’ve really been able to dive deeper and think more critically about their projects.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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