Creative thinking comes alive at Kyrene schools

They may be in the fifth grade, but their concerns about what goes on around them suggest that their views on current issues aren’t locked into elementary-school perceptions. That seemed to be one of the notable outcomes of the so-called capstone projects presented by 200 gifted students participating in showcase nights by the Kyrene School District.

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Capstone projects, note educators, are generally designed to encourage students to think critically, solve challenging problems and develop skills such as oral communication, public speaking, research abilities, media literacy, teamwork, planning, self sufficiency, or goal setting—skills aimed at helping them prepare for college, modern careers and adult life. In the case of these Kyrene kids, topics raised for discussion included a new kind of shelter to support people experiencing homelessness; a website to educate children about the problems caused by greyhound racing; and a “Kind Bot” that delivers positive messages when sadness occurs.

These were just a few of the projects presented by students participating in the district-wide event in April. Every student was instructed to find a personal interest issue to investigate and then devise an answer within the overarching theme: World Solutions. Among the inventive solutions disused were those aimed at protecting the environment, bolstering mental well-being—even simplifying household chores. Said Beth Snyder, Kyrene’s gifted & talented coordinator, suggested that she and others were pleased with the outcome of this year’s event.

“Our students represent the future’s problem solvers,” she said. “The (showcase) was crafted to offer students a stage to showcase their creativity for addressing real-world challenges with creativity and innovation.”

Creative thinking seemed to be widely in view. One student, from Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary School, created a robot designed to help children who are being bullied. While it couldn’t stop physical harm itself, a Kind Bot could detect physical harm and alert a nearby adult to help. It also could send the child positive messages to help boost confidence when they are having a bad day, or it senses that they are sad. Another student, from C.I. Waggoner Elementary School, designed a website that would expose on the dark side of greyhound racing with the goal of bringing an end to its popularity. To make the subject more approachable, the student included a glossary of terms, games and a community tab for people to discuss ways to stop the practice.

Opined the student: “I believe that awareness is important to kids, especially on topics that aren’t widely known.” Many students designed solutions to help their fellow humans, including one student from Kyrene de las Lomas school, who proposed a way to help end homelessness by creating shelters that prioritize access to healthy, balanced meals and mental health professionals. Individuals who work in the large garden on site would be paid a small wage and be able to stay at the shelter for no cost. Said gifted-and-talented adviser Snyder:

“We’re immensely proud of the imaginative prowess and innovative approaches displayed by our students in their projects,” Snyder said. “Witnessing their passion for enhancing our world is both inspiring and heartening.” 

— Thanks to Nicole Ashton



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