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Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School seventh-graders Kallie Perry, Alivia Cogar and Makenna Powers deliver their presentation on the innovative, specialty classroom they designed Tuesday at B-UMS. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Seventh-graders design public safety classroom for project-based learning initiative

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School seventh-graders presented their pitches for new, innovative classrooms in the proposed new comprehensive career-and-technical high school.

Kayce Wooten, seventh-grade career teacher at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, said all the seventh-graders at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School designed ideal classrooms for their career choices. According to Upshur County Schools officials, should the Jan. 15, 2022 bond levy pass, those seventh-graders could theoretically be the first class to attend the new high school.

“It’s been a process for a few months, and it’s all part of our Project-Based Learning initiative where there is a real-world problem and students come up with a solution,” Wooten said. “It really answers the why of what we’re learning – the question, ‘Why are we learning this?’ Everybody always asked, ‘When will I use this?’ So, they get that answer there.”

The project asked students to put together a budget, blueprints and an argument that explained the need to construct these specialty classrooms.

“They must convey what they want in a classroom based on their career interests,” Wooten explained. “They [explained] the evidence they found of why this is needed. They will be showing a blueprint they’ve created – some both digitally and on paper – and they made a budget and a shopping list of what is needed for that classroom because this is not the traditional classroom,” Wooten said. “It’s meant to be like a work-simulated classroom, so we want this to be able to be somewhere they can walk into, and they can actually practice their career as if they are working.”

The different proposals were constructed by groups of three or four students, who took a survey to ensure they would be paired with students with similar interests.

“We have roughly 280 students in the seventh grade, so there were many groups, but they all presented to their classroom teachers and their peers. Then, about 20 groups were chosen to move on to pitch to architects from Charleston and to some of our county leaders,” Wooten said. “English has been a part of this project; social studies is part of this project; science is a part of this project; art and wellness as a part of this project – it’s all content areas coming together.”

The project helped students explore different career paths and taught the importance of teamwork.

“I want them to know we want them to know that we are hearing their voice, that we want to know the things they’re interested in, and what we can do to make that happen,” Wooten said. “They were also able to interview experts in their field, and they took walking field trips. They were allowed to meet with professionals and ask questions, and that was really invaluable for them.”

Seventh-grader Kallie Perry said her group outlined a plan for a public safety classroom.

“Our team [focused on] law and public safety, and we talked about having a functioning firefighter academy, where we would have trainings with hoses and other equipment,” Kallie said. “It was always an interest of mine. I like watching firefighting shows; it’s just interesting to me, and I like helping people.”

Other members of Perry’s group included Alivia Cogar and Makenna Powers, who expressed interest in the Department of Natural Resources and the FBI. Seventh-grader Johnny Chen and his group of Brody Jeran, Toby Marple and Deacon Thorn crafted a presentation focused on forestry.

“I spent a lot of time on the budget part, calculating how much money we would need and the supplies,” Johnny said. “It took us about four or five weeks to do it; we only worked on it one day a week in one class, but it took a while. I would hope the classroom would teach about the trees, their purposes, some water classes talking about the weather and how it affects the trees, what goes into chopping trees down and how to plant and take care of new ones.”

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