Student projects transform classroom and community


Hundreds of people attended the Johnston County Public Schools Innovation Expo to see teachers and students showcase innovative teaching and learning practices on May 31 at the Johnston Medical Mall in Smithfield.

More than 80 presenters that represented 19 schools in the district shared examples of project-based, personalized, digital, and social-emotional learning.

“The innovative practices on display show that our teachers are working hard to make learning relevant for students,” JCPS Innovation Coach Melody Casey said.

Students interacted with guests to show them the work they had completed during the school year. One of the many projects on display was a model of an inclusive playground, designed by fourth grade students at Wilson’s Mills Elementary.

After observing peers with physical challenges and a field trip to Partnership for Children Park, the students compared and contrasted play spaces to design their own model of an inclusive playground.

“We were able to learn about so many different things with this project,” Kathleen Culbreth, rising fifth-grader at Wilson’s Mills Elementary, said. “I even learned that everybody should be treated the same, but in their own way.”

Groups of students worked together to prioritize, budget and plan their designs before building models. They also worked on a written proposal for the school’s PTA and launched fundraising projects to support their cause.

“The coolest part of our project was having the Partnership for Children come talk to us about what we could do to build this playground,” Kathleen said. “We learned what would be the most effective way to build the playground and came up with ways to fundraise the money needed to build it.”

Kathleen said she and her fellow students fundraised a total of $347, which was matched by the school’s PTA. The students also received a donation of $500 for their project from the Partnership for Children.

Carmen Young, Wilson’s Mills Elementary teacher, said the student’s project will expand beyond the expo. The school is in the planning phases of using the money that the students raised to acquire additional playground equipment.

Some of the other projects on display at the JCPS Innovation Expo included a nonliving zoo, Coding with Sphero, and learning about world history through historical fiction.

“The innovative practices on display show that our teachers are working hard to make learning relevant for students. The core content is still at the heart of everything they do, and when students get to experience that content through the lens of a real-world scenario or a platform that embraces both their individual talents and needs, they become better prepared for life,” Casey said. “It’s important to share this work with our community, so we can all be partners in propelling the students of Johnston County toward successful futures.”


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