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“Building our Future” at Camp Carter

Project Based Learning allows students to connect academics to real-life experiences

Miranda H. Lewis

Carter County Times

Children can lose up to 40 percent of their school-year gains while on summer break, according to a 2021 study published in the American Educational Research Journal.

A few weeks after the 2022-2023 school year ended, Carter County students were back at school taking part in a variety of summer programs offered by the district aimed at curbing that loss.

Aside from remedial and enrichment opportunities, studies show that summer programming is crucial as it ensures that every student receives the support they need to catch up on academic gaps while also providing an avenue for fostering growth, exploration, and intellectual stimulation.

While Carter County has now long offered a summer program for kindergarten through eighth-grade students, Chief Academic Officer Jennifer Fraley explained that this year the district sought a different learning approach.

“This year we wanted to approach summer learning from a Project Based Learning (PBL) Perspective,” she said.

PBL is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. This increasingly popular approach allows students to explore problems and challenges by working and collaborating with other students in small groups.

As traditional forms of teaching are slowly being displaced, PBL has evolved as a way for teachers to help their students become what the world will one day demand of them.

Fittingly, the theme of Camp Carter was “Building our Future”.

“Students in grades K-8 engaged in different activities tied to that theme including taking a field trip to tour our existing high schools, learning how to draw blueprints, construction geometry, conducting research about design, scientific testing of water, etc. in addition to other activities related to reading, writing, science, social studies and math”, Fraley said.

Middle school students Sarah Erwin, Jolene Rowe, Aiden Bledsoe, Sierra Claxon, Isaac Martin, Kenzie Gilbert, and Keegan Thomas spent the duration of camp researching and implementing school design. To present their findings, they developed a video and a Prezi (online presentation).

Fraley described this learning process as an example of “deeper learning”.

“We are moving toward this type of learning experience in our county,” she added.

Fraley hopes to infuse more elements of this type of authentic, real-life learning experience across the district.

The students toured the existing East and West Carter High School buildings to gather information before designing their architectural drafts. Based upon the input of camp participants, they constructed hard copy blueprints furnished with design concepts of the potential consolidated high school.

“Key elements of their design ideas included calm rooms for kids and adults, a playground for high school students and their teachers, labs, an auditorium, greenhouses and gardens, and a large cafeteria (including alfresco dining) that will utilize the food from the greenhouses and gardens in their lunch offerings as well as sell fresh produce from the gardens,” said Fraley.

“Of course, they would love to see a pool at a school in the future,” she quipped.

Camp Carter culminated with the students presenting their blueprints and designs in a presentation for Superintendent Dr. Paul Green and Fraley. They also presented their finished product to members of the Board of Education during the July 17 Regular Meeting.

“The kids have done a wonderful job during the two weeks of Camp Carter becoming architects, planners, and developers,” acknowledged Fraley.

Contact the writer at miranda@cartercountytimes.com



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