DECATUR — The sentiment voiced aloud by one of the Dennis School third-graders, upon hearing that they would be expected to interview schoolmates and write up articles: “But we’re just kids!”
Dennis is in the first full year of project-based learning in cooperation with Millikin University. As a lab school for the university, Dennis welcomes Millikin students and professors, as well as members of the community, in for assistance with those projects.
For this project, third-grade teachers Cari Miller and Linda Burnham charged their students with writing articles on the projects all the other grades were doing.
“They went beyond what we hoped,” Miller said. “They came up with excellent questions all on their own. They were confident enough to go around to all the grade levels and interview (other students) on their own and go back and double-check things. It was a great project.”
The short time frame of two weeks to complete the assignment was good for the students, Miller said, because it meant that the project took over other subjects such as reading and math, and wasn’t an isolated assignment.
“Eventually, that’s what we want to do as a school,” she said. “To have the project bleed into reading and math and take over our whole day.”
One benefit to roaming the school interviewing students in other grades, said Alliah Jones, 9, was making new friends.
“We had to talk to people we didn’t know,” she said. “But then you do know them.”
The third-graders fanned out around the school to see what everyone else was up to. Split into groups, they had to assign tasks, organize and pull their articles together, with a little help from Millikin English majors.
“I think I learned about how you need to make sure you have correct punctuation and correct spelling or else they can be like, ‘What the heck?’ ” said 8-year-old Celeste Ellis.
Annabelle Larson said her group interviewed the fourth grade, whose project was to make a brochure to encourage people to come to the Decatur Indoor Sports Center.
“(The project) was really fun because we learned about what everyone else is doing, and not just what we’re doing,” said Lillie Sherrerd, 8.
And once the interviews were done, the real work began, said Evan Erwin, 9.
“We had to get all our notes together and piece them together and get them to the point where they’re in an article and on a sheet,” he said. “A lot of arguing went on because a lot of people in the group were picking on each other.”
Annabelle said there were times when the arguing over what would and would not go into the story turned to tears.
“You’ve got to work together and you’ve got to like it,” Celeste said.
These articles were written by Dennis School third-graders for a project as part of the lab school concept. In project-based learning, students work together as a group to accomplish a final product and learn in several subject areas at once, cooperating with each other and with outside assistance from Millikin University students and members of the community. The third-graders were divided into small groups and each group was assigned one grade to investigate. The students’ work below is exactly as they wrote it.
At Dennis Laboratory School, the prekindergarten classroom is going to have a project about helping sheltered animals at Homeward Bound Pet Shelter. Their teacher, Lindsey Erwin, is teaching them about responsibility, counting, and safety with animals, social science and how to speak in public
They are going to learn the days of the week in order to sell calendars. The money from the calendars will be donated to animals at Homeward Bound Pet Shelter. She said, “The pre-k kids will start their project in January. The kids will be working with Linda Cleary at Macon Resources, Homeward Bound Pet Shelter and WAND News.”
For your chance to buy a calendar and help sheltered animals, please contact the pre-k at Dennis Laboratory School!
Kindergartners at Dennis Lab School did a play about Cinderella with the help of their teachers Beckah Novak, Kathy Althoff and Julie Mower. But instead of calling it Cinderella, they called it Cinderfella. It was about a cowboy Cinderella.
They took pictures, danced, and put stories in order. They also tracked Cinderella stories from different countries on a map. Then they created schema from cultures all around the world. Their project lasted about four to six weeks. Millikin students, Liz Barnabe, and sixth graders Lori Hart and Zack Albridge helped them with their project.
Emma Prosser, 6, said “It was easy,” and JaNyiah Thompson, 5, said, “It was hard.” They had lots of fun.
Dennis Lab School first-graders and their teachers, Sarah Waller and Devon Logue, are working with the fourth-grade classes to learn about countries all-around the world. They are learning about animals, clothes and food from South Africa, England and China. They are having Millikin students visit from the countries they are learning about. Jeremy Hood, 6, and Chelsea Hammons, 7, said they liked learning about animals and countries around the world.
Dennis Lab School second-graders’ project was to make sure people follow school rules. We interviewed Wyatt Knapp, 8, Jorden Buchen, 7, Alexis Star, 8, Weslee Smith, 7, and Lana Cannon, 8, of Jim Dawson and Lydia Skadberg’s second-grade classes. The project lasted two weeks because Matt Andrews, the principal, tried to make the project before open house. With this, they learned to follow rules, not to bully people and to not hurt people’s feelings. “Our project helps people to follow school expectations,” Lana said. They did it to make the school a better place.
Interviewing the third-grade class at Dennis Lab School was an interesting experience. They spoke to us about their project-based learning assignment. They spent a semester learning about how to create a public service announcement. When asked what they liked about their project, third-grader Evan Erwin, 9, said he had a lot of fun recording the PSA. Jack Kramer, 8, said, “I am proud of the PSA and of Decatur.” The students had to do research before they began their project. They researched different and interesting information about Decatur. Annabelle Larson, 8, said, “I like to learn about Decatur. The research helped me.”
Brochures were passed out by Dennis Lab School fourth-graders to the Decatur Indoor Sports Center (DISC) that serves all of Decatur. These sports brochures were created by Sue Phillips and Julie Ryan’s fourth-grade students. They studied the Olympic sports and decided what to put in the brochures. They all did different sports for the brochures. They had to study the different sports hard. Nicholas Kolovadis said, “We learned what it takes to be an athlete.” They had to print out pictures and get information off the computer. The pictures that they had to get off the computer were pictures of sports. They had to get really good stuff. Annabelle Larson said, “Did you go anywhere for your project?” Tara McLaughlin said, “We went to the DISC.” They had to work really hard. They did it all in two to three months. They had fun doing their project.
“Every part of the project is so awesome!” said Marion Mallard, fifth-grader at Dennis Lab School. The school’s fifth-graders are doing multiple projects that relate to what they are learning in class. Chelsea Janvrin’s class is doing a black history wax museum. Students are researching a person from black history, and then they pick costumes to represent that person. The students will dress up as their statues, and when the lights are off they come to life. “It was hard but awesome at the same time,” said Mallard. Jennifer Parks’ class did projects on the ancient Olympics. They took a trip to the Herald and Review to get information about their project. Parks thought it was cool because they got to learn about the past Olympics. They made charts about their athletes. Both classes had a lot of fun doing their projects. Shayla Cullison from Janvrin’s class said, “I like fifth grade.”
The sixth-graders solved the case! Keith Creighton’s sixth-grade class at Dennis Lab School did a crime investigation at the end of November. Gavin Rawls told us that they split into groups and tried to solve the mystery of the missing baby goat. The two suspects were a cheetah and a rattlesnake. The sixth-graders split into two groups and found out who the culprit was. The classes’ student teacher, Adam Fry, and two other people from Millikin University helped them with their project. They found out that the rattlesnake was guilty, and the cheetah was off the hook! And just like that, they solved the crime. When asked what they liked about their project, 6th grader Kelby Golladay said, “I had a lot of fun trying to figure out the crime!” The sixth-graders enjoyed their project-based learning project.