Instructors’ favorite projects help students learn in new ways

Courtney Goetz, Sports Editor

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Sometimes it’s almost impossible to escape the typical-ness of high school work. Every day, students come to school, do worksheets, review materials, and take tests. What is the one thing that cures the repetitive day of a high schooler? Projects.

   “It can be a headache if you get the wrong people [in your group],” says junior Bret Hawkesworth. Stress happens if not everyone holds up his/her end of the bargain.

In the words of senior Anna Hughes, “Yes, sometimes not everyone contributes equally to the group, but a project is what you make of it.”

   Despite this, senior Abby Hammye says she loves group activities. She learns better because she is a tactile learner. By doing a hands-on assignment, she feels she retains the materials taught.

   So what are some BHS teachers’ favorite projects? Devra Parker, English, assigns Stepping Across the Timeline to her junior students.

   Though there is hardly a dull moment in Mrs. Parker’s class, sometimes 13 straight years of language can become mundane. This project is her most-enjoyable because her kids are able to write in many genres without feeling like it’s a boring English assignment.

   Another English teacher, Holly Thomsen, tried a new one this year for her juniors. Now that To Kill a Mockingbird will taught to freshmen, she was able to use her juniors as a guinea pig class.

   She had her students make a big 3D map of Maycolm, Alabama. She had a lot of fun watching them work and is looking forward to giving the project to her freshmen next year.

   In addition, she has her freshman class do unique activity during her Romeo and Juliet unit.

   The students are divided up into the two dueling families, Capulets and Montagues. They create crests and compete for family points.

   Speaking of points, welding teacher Julie Carden has a final unit for her Ag Mechanics students. They spend countless hours learning the safety and specifics of welding. Then they create a lamp of horseshoes.

   “It’s my favorite one because they must create it from scratch. They have to wire it as well.”

   Doug Stewart, woodshop superviser, says his number one projects are the students themselves. Some are a little tougher than others, especially sophomore McKenzie Dalby.

   Another hard assignment students must tackle is the Sim City project in Senior Government class. Dirk Over says he likes it because it challenges the students. It really  teaches students the importance of economic development.

   Students have been powering through the monstrous program for years. The unit was first administered by Stacy Reed when he taught government, but now Mr. Over has adopted it.

   American History teacher Chris Varvel also has simulation projects, one involving the stock market. Students buy stocks at prices set in the 1920’s. For weeks, they trade and buy them; the historical setting mirrors history as well.

   “Tactile learning really helps the information stick in students’ brains,” he said, much like Abby said earlier

   In his National/International affairs class, he does a year-in-review project. Students must reflect on 365 days of news and put together a presentation that captures that time’s significant events.

   Sometimes long-term units present opportunities for students to “wow” their teachers. English II teacher Sandy Loucks says persuasive speeches can be particularly informative for her. One student actually convinced her a zombie apocalypse was possible.

   Not all teachers like to repeat their projects. Art teacher Natalie Spangenberg says she likes variety.

   She wants kids to take her class again, but she does not want them to get bored doing the same things over and over again. Though she teaches the same curriculum, she achieves it through different tasks each school year.

   Though some teachers look forward to doing certain ones each year, others like to switch it up. Whether it is a break from the day-to-day school work or a way to better explain a concept, school projects seem to have a positive influence on high school life.

Senior Anna Hughes sells flavored popcorn to a community member in order to pay for her expensive Project of Gratitude. (PHOTO: Casey Withers)

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Instructors’ favorite projects help students learn in new ways