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May 27, 2014 | 10:11 AMGENOA CITY — “I like other people’s YouTube videos, so I wanted to make one,” Billy Dennis said.
Dennis, a second-grader at Brookwood Elementary School, realized that goal with his project for the school’s May 20 learning fair — editing a video of himself lip-syncing Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”
“I wanted to learn how to edit a video,” Dennis said adding that he chose lip-syncing over singing the song “because I don’t have the same voice as Pharrell Williams.”
Dennis stood near a desk, iPad in hand, display board behind him. He showed the video to fellow classmates and their family members during the fair, as did others — mostly second- and third-graders, but others could participate if they wanted.
The morning of May 20, parents saw their children’s projects. Third-grader Chase Koenig discussed the rarest types of fingerprints with another third-grader, Aiden Pletcher. Koenig also stamped Pletcher’s thumb in an ink pad, then onto a piece of paper.
“I wanted to see what types of fingerprints other people have,” Koenig said.
Brookwood Principal Jon Schleusner said teachers wanted to see what children would come up with.
“We have so many students that have a passion about something,” he said.
Schleusner said the event was a take on the “middle school science fair.” He credited second-grade teacher Kathleen Lind for bringing the learning fair idea to Brookwood.
In a May 22 email, Lind said she had so much fun participating in her daughter’s learning fairs over the years. “It is motivating and inspiring to listen to students get excited about sharing newly learned information.”
Schleusner said getting children excited about learning can be difficult.
“The idea of research projects, no one’s doing jumping jacks about it.”
The fair seems to overcome that.
“We wanted to provide another presentation opportunity, a display opportunity, for something that was a passion and of interest to our students,” he said.
Students set their own topics
The best way to get children excited about a research project is to let them do one on something they like.
“The students could research any topic they were interested in,” Lind said. “The goal was to get families involved and have fun. I didn’t want to restrict them, and I wanted them to fly with an idea.”
Schleusner said there was one caveat. The idea had to relate to the Common Core curriculum. Common Core are academic standards in math and English language.
“All projects touched on language arts, because kids needed to read, think and write,” Lind said. “Depending on the project, the Common Core was (met) in science by learning about a mimic octopus, or math by learning about money.”
Research needed to be based on a question, such as what does having leukemia mean to me, said Lind.
“Kids are experts at their own lives. They have firsthand knowledge of what they experience. That is powerful.”
Lind said she felt students were initially apprehensive.
“Yes, we have done research and reported on it, but not where the entire school gets to see what you’ve learned,” Lind said.
The excitement was contagious. Kate Dennis, Billy’s mom, stopped Schleusner in the hall. “This was fantastic,” she told him. “Billy loved this project.”
Schleusner said those types of interruptions were common as he roamed the halls and visited the classrooms during the event.
“We’re already thinking about next year’s,” he said.