Valley Breeze

The North Providence Breeze 03-27-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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8 IN OUR SCHOOLS MARCH 27-APRIL 2, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH PROVIDENCE EDITION NORTH PROVIDENCE – A group of students in social studies classes at Ricci Middle School have been applying classroom lessons to the real world through project-based learning, gaining life skills while help- ing to promote positive changes in the community. As long as the subject inspired social activism, students were given free rein to choose topics that they felt person- ally passionate about. The yearlong projects helped students step out of their comfort zone, said social studies teacher Teresa Connors, and realize their voice can bring about change. Many students chose to focus on improving the Ricci community, including 7th-graders Juan Castrejon, Danell Santana, Cole Hosey and Sam Gborqorquellie, who are working together to secure grant funding to build a fitness room at the school. Santana said he hopes a fitness cen- ter will inspire students to work as a team, with older students jumping in to help younger students regardless of age, gender or race. In addition, Hosey said having a place where students could be active after school could help improve their overall health and sense of worth. Other projects aspiring to improve Ricci included an effort by Leo Giusti and Amarion Taylor to better market the school's secondhand clothing store, the Ricci Closet, as part of a deeper exploration of poverty and its con- nection to truancy. In the meantime, 7th-graders Jordan Fugere and Gianni Poli are collecting bottle caps to cre- ate a piece of recycled artwork for the school, George Gborqorquellie and Bruno Texeira are working to improve student bathrooms, and 8th-graders Ava Iacobucci and Ashley Lindo are painting murals on classroom walls to improve learning environments. Projects extend well beyond Ricci, including to Puerto Rico, where 7th- grader Julianna Piccirillo is working to develop a pen pal program to learn about how students are coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Another group of students chose to continue the work started by Connors in her classroom last year to sponsor the education of Abebech Ayehu, a 10-year-old girl in Ethiopia. Connors first implemented project- based learning in her classroom last year, after 13 years of teaching. Since then, she has inspired other teachers such as Kimberly DiTusa to apply project-based learning in their class- room. DiTusa, a science teacher, said the method has helped her students realize their full potential. "In the first year, the students far exceeded my expectations," she said, noting that the projects forced students to step out of their comfort zones. The question she posed to her students was: in what way can I participate civically to improve my local environ- ment? One of her students demonstrated the dangers of both plastic and paper bags, teaching her classmates how to make a reusable bag from an old t-shirt. The goal of Jeevika Thazhai Selvan's project was to help prevent deforestation through education. "The majority of people don't know that they are taking part in the prob- lem," she said. "The average student uses about 800 pieces of paper a year," she said. In short, we're all part of the problem, and we should all be part of the solution. "Using recycled paper, avoiding certain wood products and using the Global Forest Watch app to monitor suspicious activity are some ways to start." Another one of DiTusa's students, Kiera Buttimer, saved 476 Styrofoam lunch trays from the trash at Ricci, washing them each before hand- delivering them to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp. recycling center in Johnston. The amount of waste at Ricci has been cut in half over three days thanks to her efforts, and Buttimer said she'd like to con- tinue the fight until Styrofoam is out of all of the district's schools. Buttimer said she learned more through project-based learning than she would have by reading a chapter from a textbook or other more tradi- tional methods of education. Plus, she said, "We're gaining social and adult skills while doing some- thing to change the community for the better." Project-based learning brings change to Ricci and beyond By NICOLE DOTZENROD Valley Breeze Staff Writer nicole@valleybreeze.com BREEZE PHOTO BY NICOLE DOTZENROD Seventh-grade students JUAN CASTREJON, DANELL SANTANA, COLE HOSEY and SAM GBORQORQUELLIE are exploring the potential benefits of having a fit- ness room at Ricci Middle School, working together to apply for a grant in their social studies class as part of 'project-based learning.' 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