Students let their research do the talking
Project Citizen winners focus on environmental causes
Glendale — Ten teams of seventh-grade students at Glen Hills Middle School took on some relevant topics in the school's first foray into the Project Citizen competition.
The State Bar of Wisconsin sponsors Project Citizen as a way of teaching students how to develop public policy. It fits into the seventh-grade social studies curriculum and gives students some practical topics and the chance to develop real-world action plans.
Seventh-grade teacher Katie Staacke said the project began in mid-December when the students learned about public policy at the local, state and national levels. By the middle of January the 100 seventh-grade students picked their topics and divided into groups to research their public policy issue, develop possible solutions for it and recommend an action plan.
"The main point of this was for them to learn about exercising their freedom of speech," Staacke said.
Exercise it they did.
After filling binders with their research and developing a project board, four representatives of each of the 10 groups made a presentation before a panel of judges.
Two winning projects, Raising Awareness About the Importance of Reusable Bags and Eliminating Paper Usage in our School, were selected for the state competition May 13. The judges also named an alternate, Creating a Composting Pile at our School, in case students who were part of the other projects were not able to go to the competition in Madison.
Students did indepth research
In all three presentations, the students' research was evident.
San Francisco and China have banned plastic bags, Outpost Natural Foods doesn't give out bags, but most people continue to use plastic bags more often than paper bags, according to the reusable bag group.
Alexis Terry said the public needs to be educated.
"Usually people don't know what to do with a paper bag," she said.
The group's action plan includes posting signs to increase awareness of reusable bags in local grocery stores, distributing fliers to classmates, and presenting the information to other classes and to the city's Common Council.
Katie Novak said turning down paper and plastic bags in favor or reusable ones will have an affect on the plastic and paper bag industries. Looking at all the impacts of a proposal was part of the exercise for all the groups.
Flash drives vs. paper
The paper-use group got the attention of Jim Beckmann, the director of operations for the district and a member of the judges panel.
The students suggested the district reduce its use of paper and suggested giving students flash drives in which to store their work.
"We would only do math homework on paper," said Michelle Pigg.
Beckmann said that the district makes 2 million copies a year and there could be a savings on copy machines, paper and toner.
The composting group said food waste from the cafeteria could be used to start a composting pile and a garden that could be tended by students during their home room periods.
That group did a survey of students that showed more than 50 percent throw away one to three pieces of food, most of them items that could be placed in a compost pile.
Beckmann thought the idea had merit but wondered who would care for the pile and garden once the current seventh-grade students left.
Other topics include the use of tobacco by underage students, a pitch for a bike path from Marne Avenue to Mill Road, changes to the sledding hill at Kletzsch Park, plans for more snow plowing and healthier school lunches.
Jack Jarmes, the state coordinator for Project Citizen, his wife, Janice, the 1st District coordinator for Project Citizen, gifted and talented teacher Lalitha Murali, along with Beckmann, made up the judges panel.
Raising awareness about the importance of reusable bags
Eliminating paper usage in our school
Creating a composting pile at our school*
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