STEM Academy World's Fair

Students share their projects during World's Fair. Students share their projects during World's Fair. Students share their projects during World's Fair.

Killeen Independent School District - Killeen, TX

Smith Middle School STEM Academy seventh-graders summoned the world to their school to culminate a major project analyzing global public health.

The academy, in its first year at the new middle school in south Killeen, uses Project-Based Learning which takes a multi-disciplinary approach with students collaborating in groups, using technology and including the community.

A recent project, called "Here's to Your Health," ended with a World's Fair spread across six spaces in the seventh-grade cluster of classes. Each space was dedicated to a continent.

The fair also included student-made videos, describing results of their research, an ongoing documentary of a world's fair and a garden at the side of the school property.

In each classroom, divided into continents, students explained the distinctions of their assigned country and how cultural factors appear to affect health of populations and environments.

"Watching them go through this project, I thought they did an amazing job at communicating with each other," teacher Heather Raico said. Students couldn't always gather in their groups during classes and had to schedule times outside of school to work.

"They did a good job putting it all together," she said. Students learned facts about their countries, presented the facts visually and built web sites and videos to complete their projects.

"Comparing and contrasting health of their country with their own country is the part I liked about it," Raico said. "There were differences and maybe more similarities than they expected." Research included a wide range of physical, emotional, mental and nutritional health.

The wide-ranging project included math, English, science, history and agriculture technology.

They began in February with a learning trip to Carl Levin Park in Harker Heights where students collected samples from the pond to measure acidity and other factors and surveyed residents about their recreation practices.

Students also learned about the community garden and completed a scavenger hunt to discover the variety of animal and plant life at the local park.

Seventh-graders Diamarie Asher and Isabella Snyder studied the health and culture of the nation of Uruguay.

While students in the South American country generally spend less time in school than their American peers, the country is not considered poor from a global standpoint, but does struggle with obesity because of a diet heavy on wheat, the students said.

"It was fun and hard at the same time," said Asher, describing the challenging, interesting project.

Nate'vyonne Ladson was part of the group that studied Italy. She described a population that enjoys strong health based on a nutritional diet.

Obesity rates in Italy are below 5 percent, Ladson said, because people partake in a Mediterranean diet with a lot of vegetables and fruits and minimal red meat. Italians also walk more and drive less than the average American.

Seventh-grader Asaunte Powell was part of the group that studied Thailand, a country she found interesting and deeply different than America.

The Asian country, she said, is not diverse religiously, with more than 90 percent claiming Buddhism. It is also a country still considered developing economically that has high poverty. Culturally, she said, people of Thailand show high respect for elders, particularly monks.

April 18, 2018