2018-02-15 / Life in Leelanau

‘Personal Projects’ challenge, inspire sophomores at Leland

By Jen Murphy
Of The Enterprise staff


LELAND STUDENTS talk about their required 10th Grade Personal Projects. Pictured from left in the bottom row are Elizabeth O’Neil, project supervisor Kat Murphy and IB coordinator Jenifer Zywicki. Pictured from left in the top row are Maggie Molter, Andre Masse and Griffin Satterwhite. LELAND STUDENTS talk about their required 10th Grade Personal Projects. Pictured from left in the bottom row are Elizabeth O’Neil, project supervisor Kat Murphy and IB coordinator Jenifer Zywicki. Pictured from left in the top row are Maggie Molter, Andre Masse and Griffin Satterwhite. For 10th-grade students at Leland Public School, learning is hands-on.

This is the inaugural year for Leland’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, so to meet the school’s new requirements, each student needs to complete a “10th Grade Personal Project.”

In addition to the project, students are required to complete a presentation and a 10-page reflection paper.

Project supervisor Kat Murphy said she’s excited by the results she sees in students as they work to fulfill these requirements that bring the cross-curricular nature of the program into focus.

“It’s the culminating product of the middle years program,” Murphy said. “It should be everything coming together to show us how they have come along as an IB learner.


LELAND STUDENTS get ready to recite poetry at the Poetry Out Loud event, planned by sophomore Elizabeth O’Neil. Back row: Tracy Grosvenor, Cici Littlefield, Kendra Coleman, Keegan Royston, Jacob LaCross, Andrew Pershinske, Jeanne Gross (English teacher). Second row: Jackson Arens, Avery Fessenden (winner). Front: Elizabeth O’Neil. LELAND STUDENTS get ready to recite poetry at the Poetry Out Loud event, planned by sophomore Elizabeth O’Neil. Back row: Tracy Grosvenor, Cici Littlefield, Kendra Coleman, Keegan Royston, Jacob LaCross, Andrew Pershinske, Jeanne Gross (English teacher). Second row: Jackson Arens, Avery Fessenden (winner). Front: Elizabeth O’Neil. “I like seeing the confidence and the tools they gain. I tell them, ‘use this in your college essays and when you apply for a job.’ I don’t know if they see what a big deal this is.”

Middle Years Program IB Coordinator Jenifer Zywicki agrees with the importance of this part of student learning.

“They talk about projects in their classes,” Zywicki said. “The fact is it becomes a thread through their whole experience as a student.”

Murphy explained that while there is no real change to content, curriculum or teaching strategies during this phase of student learning, the individual projects effectively implement an integrated, cross-curricular learning opportunity for the students.

This type of learning is something that’s stressed in any IB program.

“With the program, we took an already great school and consolidated all the great things we were doing under one umbrella,” Murphy said. “It’s where we streamlined things and provided an authentic learning experience for the students.”

For the next two weeks, 36 sophomores are hard at work wrapping up a variety of projects from concussion awareness and soccer tournaments to poetry reading and electric bicycles.

And some of the students have personal connections with their projects.

Keegan Royston has played defensive end on the football team for five years. In those five years, he said, he has suffered five concussions.

This year, Royston said he wanted to do something to make things safer on the field.

“I’m going to do a presentation and give a test after to see what people learned,” he said. “We have to be safe with the sports we play. Football may be losing players, but soccer is growing and there’s risk there too.

“We need to play safer.”

Andre Masse, a soccer player, is looking to make a difference in another way.

Masse said he hopes to help children in developing countries who have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

“It’s important to me because I have Type 1 diabetes, and I’m lucky to have what I need,” he said. “It’s important that other kids have what they need too.”

To help these children, Masse organized a futsal tournament being held at the school this weekend. Team entry fees totaling $300 from the tournament will be donated to “Life for a Child.” In addition, Masse worked with Traverse Bay Area Youth Soccer to donate half of the proceeds from a tournament they will host.

A classmate, Maggie Molter, also has her sights set on helping children through soccer. The goal of her project is to raise funds to support a soccer program through Kids First Uganda.

“It’s 800 U.S. dollars for an entire year to run the program and help these children and their families get the food they need,” Molter said.

She added: “I’ve learned it’s important to help others and a lot of people don’t have what they need. It breaks my heart. The team (in Uganda) is wearing our boys’ old team shirts. They need all this equipment, and they play without shoes while we can just go to the store and get what we need. They can’t. I just want to help.”

Molter is coordinating a middle school dance and a raffle to raise the funds needed. She hopes 50 students will attend.

Elizabeth O’Neil had several students attend and participate in the school-wide “Poetry Out Loud” event she planned.

O’Neil’s inspiration was sparked by a poetry slam the school held last year.

“Over the summer, I thought about my project and things I liked. I thought about English,” she said. “My goal was to get people more interested in poetry.”

O’Neil participated in the event as well. She recited the poem “Momma Said” by Calvin Forbes.

Another student, Griffin Satterwhite, took his efforts in a different direction.

“I was riding my bike one day and thought about what it would be like if I could make it electric,” he said.

So Satterwhite converted an old mountain bike into an electric bicycle similar to the ones he saw while vacationing in California.

“It’s called an e-bike,” Satterwhite said. “I was surprised by how fast it can go. It can get up to 30 miles an hour.”

Satterwhite’s learning during his project has been speedy as well.

“I learned a lot,” he said. “In the beginning, I didn’t know anything about batteries or motors or motor controls. Now I do.”

With all of the different project topics and varied learning abilities of the students, Murphy said she’s a bit nervous, but excited, for all of the projects to be turned in. She added that any students who need assistance, particularly with writing a 10-page paper, are provided with support.

When asked if there would be any changes made to the 10th-grade project next year, Murphy said she would like to see more staff involved in the process to support oversight of the students and their efforts.

“Also, based on this year, we will roll out the program earlier,” she said. “This year’s freshman class will hear details about the project this spring so they can think about it over the summer and as they start their final year of the IB program at Leland.”

No doubt, those projects will be just as impressive.

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