BIG HORN — Big Horn Elementary third-grade teachers Laurie Graves and Lamont Clabaugh have received national recognition from the Pearson Foundation through The Model Classroom program for their project “The Then and Now of Sheridan County.”
The Model Classroom recognized just 20 projects this year and the goal is to encourage learning outside of the traditional classroom environment. The chosen projects are then featured nationally to urge other educators to create similar programs that engage students in learning.
“The Then and Now of Sheridan County” program encourages students to research the history of their area and then consider actions they can take to improve their community now and into the future. Throughout the school year, the students learned about Sheridan County history through field trips to local museums and historical sites, researching the economic and cultural history of the county and even investigating their own community roots through interviews with family members.
After interviewing their family members, the students created a short presentation about where their ancestors came from. Clabaugh captured the student presentations on video and linked the presentations to QR codes (barcode matrixes that can be scanned by smartphones, iPads or iPods).
“We put together a big display in the hall,” Clabaugh explained. “Within that we had QR codes where kids researched about each continent and the people that live on the continent, the economy, food and natural resources.”
When students, teachers or visitors passed the display, they could scan the QR code with either a smartphone, iPad or iPod and a student presentation would then pop up on the screen.
“He is very tech savvy and has brought a whole new aspect to the project with his knowledge,” Graves said about Clabaugh’s contribution.
After learning about Sheridan County’s history, the students were challenged to consider how they could contribute to the community now and into the future. The students eventually decided on pursuing a recycling program in Big Horn.
As part of the project, the students did a trash cleanup in the Big Horn area and then analyzed what type of items they collected and which items could have been recycled rather than discarded.
“They sorted it into like categories and tallied it to see what items were most thrown out,” Graves said. “Then they used the items to build a ram’s head. They were just amazed that they could create art with trash that other people had thrown away.”
In addition, the students conducted a school survey to determine whether a recycling program would be well-received.
From these efforts, the students decided to begin recycling in the school. They collected several large cardboard boxes that will serve as classroom recycling boxes.
“We are painting them and distributing them out to classrooms for paper or plastic collection,” Clabaugh explained. “On the survey, they determined that those two items needed to be collected the most.”
The students will empty the recycling boxes once a week, using large carts donated to them by the custodial staff. Though it is an ambitious undertaking, Clabaugh and Graves said the students’ enthusiasm for the project hasn’t waned.
“I think because this was student driven, their interest drove the project and their passion,” Graves said. “The writing that has come out of this, and with the math graphing and math calculations that have done on this project, we’ve seen a higher level of expertise in those areas. If it is about the kids’ interests, they’ll perform better and we have certainly seen that.”
“Their whole premise is to make learning relevant and real for students,” she said, noting she attended a Model Classroom workshop in Washington, D.C. “They really pushed us to think even bigger than what we were and encourage the students to come up with a student driven way to make their community better. That is where the recycling part came in. They recognized it as something that wasn’t being done in the Big Horn community and it could make a difference in this area.”