A group of students presenting to panelists. submitted photo

REGION — On Wednesday and Thursday of last week the Telstar Freshman Academy (TFA) presented their final projects to teachers and other members of the community in a think tank panel forum. The final projects wrapped up the TFA’s unit on innovation, collaboration and communication.

The project started with students identifying a global issue, and then studying that issue to see how it has made an impact locally. From there, students research their topics and came up with solutions for them.

Issues included poverty, food insecurity, water quality, clean energy alternatives, electronic waste and teen bullying.

Once students were split into groups (3-4 students per group), and had decided on an idea, they then began to dive into the collaboration part of the unit, where they came up with a solution to their issue and began work on a model that would represent that solution. One group created an app for bullying, another took plastic waste and used it to make toys. The former had one panelist offering to pay $100 for the app to be available in the app store.

A group that focused on battery recycling designed boxes that people can put them in, an alternative to just throwing them away after they die.

All of these solutions were then communicated to the public as part of the final phase of the unit. Students introduced their problem, explained their solution and then showed their model to panelists. The panelists then provided feedback/ideas and asked questions to the students. Students responded to the panelists as best as they could.

Before presenting to the panelists, students practiced presenting to a small number of Telstar students who had previously been a part of forum. Students asked TFA students questions and gave feedback, similar to what the actual panelists did. 4-H Professional Educator Tara Pocock said the students benefited from the trial runs.

Among the panelists were Senator Lisa Keim, SAD 44 School Board Chair Bonnie Largess, Jim Reuter from SRL Architects, and Outreach and Development Director at the Chamber of Commerce Robin Zinchuk.

“I think the panel enjoyed seeing the students do this type of work,” Telstar Humanities teacher Doug Bennett said.  Bennett helped students with the research part of the project.

Bennett added that panel members were impressed by some of the students willingness “to go above and beyond” project expectations.

“The students are being empowered because their ideas are being taken seriously,” 4-H Professional Educator Norm Greenberg said.

“It’s really cool in person to see the growth the students are going through and how creative they are with both the problems they decided they wanted to deal with and with the solution they came up with to those problems,” Jessie Perkins said. Perkins is executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and was one of 13 panelists to ask questions to students.

The next unit will focus on exploration and discovery, where students will study parts of English, history and science.

The TFA will also be traveling to Washington, D.C. next month.


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