MIDDLETOWN A first-year project at a Middletown school had students wondering why the headlines of some stories coming from their city were sad, so they invited some local headliners into their classroom to help explain things.
It’s an unusual class project and Wednesday saw fifth and sixth graders at Central Academy peppering their latest round of invited guest speakers — a local school board president, a case manager from a homeless shelter and the director of a family services program — with questions.
“Why are there so many poor people in Middletown?”
“How long has poverty affected Middletown?
“What’s the best way to help homeless people?”
“How can we raise money to help feed poor people?”
The students’ project goal: Learning what they can do to improve some of the headlines coming out of their Butler County city.
The latest three-person panel fielded the questions gamely, often using them as springboards to explain larger societal concepts involved in their various lines of work.
Past participants this school year have included Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins, Middletown Public Works and Utilities Director Scott Tadych and Mayor Larry Mulligan.
“Central Academy’s intermediate students get to interview city officials, social service workers and other community helpers as the research component of their project to positively impact the Middletown headlines,” said Destini Burns, spokeswoman for the city schools.
School Principal Misha Monnin touted the infusion of prominent local officials into the classroom as an effective learning tool for her students “because they were looking for ways they could improve the headlines in Middletown.”
“They took different (stories) from the newspaper (the Journal-News) and researched those and developed some questions … then they looked for people they could invite in to answer those questions for them as they continue on with this project,” said Monnin.
Chris Urso, president of the Middletown Board of Education, explained to the young audience concepts and comparative measures of poverty juxtaposed to the great wealth of some of America’s richest families.
Barb Files, program director for Family Services of Middletown responded to some students questions about poverty by explaining “there will always be those who are in need.”
“Middletown has always had a higher rate of unemployment than the rest of Ohio and all of the United States,” said Files.
Dawnetta Chapman, a case manager with Access Counseling Services at the Hope House Mission, touched on the subject of “generational poverty” that traps some local families for a number of lifetimes.
“This is a hard thing to talk about but it’s a piece of reality,” she told the students.
The infusion of real-life problems and possible solutions offered by local city leaders is an invaluable instructional forum, said Burns.
“Our students get the opportunity to ask probing questions, conduct their own research, and create meaningful projects that give them hands-on community building experience,” said Burns. “It’s about the students and this project allows the students to take the lead on their learning.”