Sikeston community sees more positive growth with new school program

Innovator's learning lab helps community

SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - Sikeston Junior High students are giving back through a new school program.

“I pose these big questions called ‘driving questions’ to the students,” Innovator’s Learning Lab facilitator Carissa Ware explained. “Their responses turn into their projects.”

“She told us what the driving question was. It was ‘How you make Sikeston a better place?’,” 7th grade student Christian Parker said.

We talked with a handful of students about the project-based Driving Question program.

"It teaches you problem solving skills, how to work in your community, how to socialize and be active in a group working with others," 7th grade student Madeline McCord said.

They each said this program was a great way to focus positive efforts towards making Sikeston a better place to live.

"You learn so much more than things like math and science," 8th grade student Zoie McDonald said. "You learn how to work with people; things that you're going to have to use in daily life all the time. So I feel this is very important."

Before going into the field, students answered the driving question with an assortment of different projects. They then broke into groups and tackled their plans.

"Our group, we decided to donate money to a place here in Sikeston. We chose the Kenny Rodgers Center," 7th grade student Andon Christian said. "We got some arcade machines from Lemons Coin Machines in Cape Girardeau. We put them here in the school and made money. They money we made we donated to Kenny Rodgers."

Christian stated they had a Pac-Man teacher tournament on the arcade machine. Students also played the arcade game for the duration of the time the arcade game was at the school.

"The total we raised was $192.50," Christian added. "We thought that it would be really helpful to the community. We know some people that go there."

Parker said he and his group chose to collect food from the community for the Bulldog Pantry so those students in the school district that are in need can have food and clothing.

"We put out three boxes in three different locations. We kept it out for a week or two," Parker explained. "Some people don't have a lot of stuff. By us donating to the Sikeston Bulldog Pantry, they can get help."

McCord and McDonald were in the same group. They gave back by holding a book drive for the library at the middle school.

"We got some boxes and we decorated them up. We cut a big hole in it so people can put the books in," McCord stated. "We set it out at six different locations."

"We've been to those schools and we've seen that the library is and they don't have a very wide selection of books," McDonald recalled. "So we wanted to change that."

That group ended up collecting a total of 664 books for the library.

"I figured that we would get a good amount because Sikeston is very supportive of the kids and the schools in general," McDonald added. "But 600 books! We were just blown away."

"It makes you feel really good to know that you can help people," McCord said. "Especially kids that are learning that are younger than you. Knowing what they are going through in the schools and to be able to help them out with that experience, it's amazing."

Other projects the students accomplished are...

Retro Derby - Where the group wanted to create a paved skating path around a walking path. Students visited with community partners at Sikeston Public Works and Sikeston Parks and Recreation about the project.

Shovel Boyz - A group rakes leaves and shovels snow for neighbors in Sikeston for free.

Community Fridge - Tgroup worked with the school’s Central Supply which are planning to donate a community pantry for anyone in the city that needs essentials to come by and get.

Groomers Help - These students are volunteering at different places who groom dogs.

Teaching Kids - This group is making tutoring videos to share online for other kids to view and learn from.

Operation Clean Up - This group is concerned with the littering problem in Sikeston. They are collaborating with public works on making a video they could show to elementary children and possibly painting the trash cans around the Complex park.

Builders Group - This group pitched an idea to a few companies to build some agility items to donate to the Sikeston City Dog Park. These items were built and are awaiting inspection by Dustin Care, Direction of Parks and Recreation.

Stuffed Animals to Hospitals - This group plans to purchase bears that say, “Get Well” on them and are creating small cards to go with them. They will donate 11 bears to Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston.

P.A.W.S. - This group is donating their time to the local Humane Shelter. Students raised over $103 in cash and several supplies, as well as online donations.

Animal to Animal - This group is washing and walking dogs for those who might not otherwise be able to.

Sikeston R-6 School Resource Officer Brent Mullins commends these students for stepping up to make Sikeston a better place. He said it's very important they learn how to engage in positive roles in the community.

"These are the kids that are going to be running our community and later on they are going to be running our government," Mullins stated. "These kids, we need to get them in the right mind-frame now of showing them what we expect of how they need to act and do to make this a better place for us and for them."

Ware said she has seen a difference in her students and feels this has shaped their future and the City of Sikeston for the better.

"I think this really empowers students," I saw them come in from day one. They wanted guidance and they wanted answers. By the time we were finished and presented our last presentation, they were taking initiative, they were confident and they had more social skills."

“I think that this proves that kids can actually make a difference.” Christian added.

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