How EAST Equipped Me to Take on Anything

I hope you’re sitting down for this week’s blog post; it’s a doozy! This week we feature guest blogger, EAST alum and biological scientist, Shelby Paschal. Shelby has had an exciting summer and wanted to share her thoughts on how these sorts of opportunities happen.

Shelby Paschal EAST Alumni

Shelby Paschal
EAST Alumna

How EAST made me a better engineer:

I suppose I should start by clarifying that statement.

EAST hasn’t technically made me a better “engineer,” because I’m not quite finished yet. I will receive my degree in Biological Engineering from the University of Arkansas later this year, so for now, I will start with “how EAST made me a better scientist.”

Science is what I love and thankfully, it is what I get to do. I have spent most of the summer at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, as an environmental chemistry intern assisting in monitoring the water quality and light availability in the Chesapeake Bay.

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To be completely honest, it has been a crazy summer! I have learned to write a grant proposal, got a boating license, been enlightened on how complicated the water chemistry in an estuary can be and learned from the top experts in my field (and played volleyball with a couple of them!). It’s an experience of a lifetime for a girl who wants to devote her life to ensure high water quality across the globe, not to mention it is a pretty far cry from what I thought I would be doing when I was in high school.

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During my years at Mammoth Spring High School, my main EAST project was helping maintain our school website but I mostly dabbled in whatever my awesome facilitator, Mrs. Joy Underwood, would let me. The options of software to learn and projects to work on and things to do was overwhelming. My senior year, I spent much of my EAST class time prepping to be a conference ambassador and that was easily one of my favorite memories of school. But this all has nothing to do with what I’m doing now, right? Or does it?

IMG_4425The beauty of my experience with EAST is that while I was learning some of the most valuable lessons of my career, I didn’t even realize it. Who knew that troubleshooting HTML scripts to fix minor problems on a school website three years ago would make the code for statistical analysis on my nutrient data in MATLAB easier to understand just last week? Or that communication skills I learned as an ambassador in 2011 would be what helped me land my dream internship this summer? Not to mention the fact that I would use GIS mapping skills every day to make the trends in water quality and nutrients seen through an entire watershed to document changes as the water flows?

Science isn’t just about the experiments anymore, it’s about communicating those results and making connections on a larger scale. In many ways, every career field is looking for people to make those connections and solve problems in innovative ways to make a difference. Unfortunately grade school and even most colleges aren’t preparing us for those bigger tasks, and that’s where EAST comes in. The EAST classroom isn’t just a class where you learn a certain subject; it’s a program where you learn how to think. It is not about the projects themselves, it’s about the brains behind those projects. When I was in EAST, I thought the biggest achievement for a program would be a project that impacted the community in a positive way (and we had those!). Instead, what Mrs. Underwood and all those wonderfully sneaky facilitators were really offering was the opportunity for us as students to be impacted in a positive way. EAST taught me personally how to start a project from scratch, learn what needed to be understood to complete that project, stick with it even when I didn’t always want to and then communicate the results or ask for help if it really needed improvements to move forward.

And if we are going to be completely honest here, that’s not just how EAST made me a better engineer, or even a better scientist; it is how EAST made me a better student. And that means being equipped to take on just about anything!

- Shelby Paschal

Do you have goosebumps? I do. Thank you Shelby, you’re exactly what we talk about when we talk about the capacity for education and EAST to help develop the next wave of STEM professionals. I am so proud of what you have done but more excited about what you will do. Congratulations!

Until next time,

MD

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Connecting Youth to Technology and the Real World

This week’s guest blogger is EAST’s very own Angela Kremers, Sr. Director of Corporate Strategy. Dr. Kremers is a passionate advocate for the work being done throughout EAST and has been since before she came on staff.

Dr. Angela Kremers Senior Director of Corporate Strategy, the EAST Initiative

Dr. Angela Kremers
Sr. Director of Corporate Strategy – EAST Initiative

Ask most teenagers in Arkansas what they think about school and I am guessing you will hear comments like “it’s boring, it doesn’t apply to anything,” or “I don’t feel connected.” Yet youth today can navigate social media and the latest technology with ease. The reality is a disconnect between what teenagers are interested in and how they learn. This has a direct consequence on what motivates students and the typical school experience. This is a critical issue considering the American Legislative Exchange Council, among other national indicators, rank Arkansas education at or around 45th in the nation.

Schools need to bridge the gap between what motivates students to learn and how that will impact the education system, busuntitled-32inesses and communities. To do this, we need to get youth connected to learning through technology and application to real world problems and solutions. There is a clear and direct link between educational attainment and poverty. Rural states such as Arkansas work hard to compete for a talented workforce because we lack a strong pipeline of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) prepared employees. So how do we fill this pipeline? We start in our local schools with programs like the EAST Initiative.

EAST programs are currently in over 200 schools in five states and a long waiting list exists. Funding limits expansion to approximately 10-15 new programs each year. Students in programs like EAST begin to feel a connection through technology and applied learning. Think about your personal experience of sitting in a classroom with desks in a row, staring at a teacher in the front of the room lecturing. Now imagine students in classrooms filled with sophisticated technology working on projects that integrate applied learning and civic awareness. EAST students engage in project-based learning with an economic impact of over $15 million annually in Arkansas alone. It is a recipe for success. a00eb9eaa2b59d8b96e3e5d8f8686546

Arkansas and other states should continue to build on the great things happening with economic development and entrepreneurialism. Legislators, municipalities, school boards and administrators should make a tangible commitment to embrace the idea that technology and talent build the STEM pipeline to impact innovation and economic growth. The Argenta Innovation Hub is a big idea that is now becoming a reality. It is a great example of building an infrastructure to connect technology, entrepreneurial and community networks to drive innovation. The startup scene in Arkansas is growing and the participation of youth is a necessary investment; especially for girls and underrepresented minorities. ar hubWhy is it so important for technology to be a greater focal point in schools? Currently, only three states include basic computer science skills, such as coding, in the required school curriculum. Yet according to the 2010 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report, “As the world becomes increasingly technological, the value of national assets will be determined by the effectiveness of STEM education in the United States. STEM education will determine whether the United States will remain a leader among nations.”

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Rural states need computer scientists and programmers; we need STEM to be a priority. Arkansas STEMWorks was introduced by Governor Beebe’s Workforce Cabinet to bring more STEM programs into our schools. Programs include EAST Core, Project Lead the Way and New Tech schools. Among these programs, the Little Rock-based EAST Initiative is the only program developed in Arkansas. It provides direct benefits to the state’s local economy, schools and communities.

States can benefit from exploring emerging technology that other cities worldwide are integrating into economic plans. Examples include predictive technology, smart street lamps, geospatial mapping, use of cameras and speed radars to inform drivers of traffic issues. Asset mapping and apps for communication with state officials would be useful to bring awareness about city and community needs or problems (e.g. location of potholes, damage after severe weather, etc.).

We know that computer science and technological skills are a key lever in the STEM equation, yet the expectation for what is capable in K-12 learning remains too low. Young students need to be introduced early in their academic experiences to opportunities that set a high bar for expectations. When this occurs, move out of the way and you will be amazed. EAST students in elementary school are launching weather balloons into space, coding and creating sophisticated GIS/GPS maps. These amazing students are no different than any other student across the nation; they were just provided access and opportunity, something all students deserve.

With the Argenta Innovation Hub, the Iceburg in Northwest Arkansas, the Big Data Centers, EAST programs and the increasing infrastructure for startups and entrepreneurship in the state, we are poised for a “tech tipping point.” We need to embrace this and shout it out to the world – technology and talent build the STEM pipeline to impact innovation and economic growth.To accomplish this, we must get youth connected to technology and the real world around them.  

By building a STEM pipeline one student at a time, we will reap the benefits with long term impact. No greater planning at the local, regional and national level can occur than to implement a culture and focus on technology, economic growth and talent. It is a great way Arkansas can improve quality of life through conveniences, safety, economic development, entrepreneurialism and fiscal responsibility. Youth really are a part of the solution.  

The time is now to invest in youth, technology and education. We hope you will join us in our efforts to make education engaging and focused on what students will need to succeed in the 21st century global workforce.

EAST is founded on the idea that we can achieve more than we believe possible if we are just given the chance. Thank you for sharing more on this Dr. Kremers.

Until next time,

-MD

www.SupportEAST.org

Sources:

http://www.alec.org/publications/report-card-on-american-education/
Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education for STEM and America’s Future
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-stemed-report.pdf

 

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Lending a Helping Hand in Crisis

Matt DozierPres./CEO - EAST Initiative

Matt Dozier
Pres./CEO – EAST Initiative

The events on the evening of April 27 left their mark in Arkansas weather history as a destructive EF4 tornado ripped through several small towns, leaving behind miles of debris in communities that looks more like a combat zones than the Natural State.

As the magnitude of storms was revealed with the morning light the following day, volunteers began to mobilize in full force, collecting donations of clothes and supplies, and gearing up to start sorting through the debris, helping to clean up treasured possessions of residents in Mayflower, Vilonia and surrounding areas in central Arkansas.

10312112_629739770451759_5294271980714757012_nThe storms, determined by public records to be the deadliest in the state since 1968, left behind physical damage estimated in the millions and an emotional toll that cannot be calculated. But in the days immediately following, EAST students, facilitators and staff jumped into action to serve those affected.

For the past two weeks, a number of EAST programs in Arkansas have volunteered to help communities clean up and gathered thousands of donations of clothes, water and supplies for the tornado victims.

Some of those programs and their efforts include:

Clinton High School EAST – Partnered with other school groups to fill collection bins with water and toiletries and donated the items to the Salvation Army in Conway, Ark.

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Dover High School EAST

Dover High School EAST – Organized an emergency relief event to gather items to meet immediate needs of those affected by collaborating with an area chaplain.  Students created posters for both print and digital distribution, and attached encouraging messages to water bottle wraps. The first group of items were delivered to a Mayflower distribution site with plans to deliver more donations in the coming days.

Dover Middle School EAST – Communicated with Vilonia Middle School to begin planning a service project to help the victims in Vilonia.

Drew Central High School EAST – Partnered with the agriculture program to collect three truckloads of canned goods, water, clothing, and toys for people in Vilonia and Mayflower.

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Greenbrier High School EAST

Greenbrier High School EAST – Partnered with the Wagon Wheel Restaurant to serve breakfast to volunteers staying at the Arkansas District Pentecostal Ministry Disaster Relief Center and the Vilonia Senior Citizen Center. Following breakfast, EAST students joined volunteers in clean up efforts.

Hamburg High School EAST- Began collecting donations May 5 to send to communities.

Mansfield High School EAST – Currently collecting items through May 16 to be donated to tornado victims.

Maumelle Middle School EAST – Organized a “Donation a Day” effort to collect specific items each day for victims including toiletries, toys for children, blankets and pet items. A collection jar has been placed in the school’s office to be given to First Security bank for gift card purchases. Efforts are also being focused on assisting victims in Ferndale and Center Hill who have had minimal assistance in relief activities.

Nettleton Junior High EAST and Nettleton High School EAST – Collaborated with several school clubs and organizations, the Nettleton Public School District, fraternities and sororities at Arkansas State University and Pink Ink Screen Printing to sell HOPE for HOME disaster relief t-shirts with proceeds benefiting tornado victims through the Red Cross.

Russellville High School EAST – Accepted donations for tornado victims through its website and EAST students set up donation boxes around the campus.

North Little Rock High School East Campus EAST –Coordinated a collection site for the community to donate items for tornado relief effort that included sorting, packing, loading and delivery to Vilonia, Friendship and Ferndale/Paron. On site, EAST students helped tornado victims load their vehicles with needed items. In Ferndale the team delivered over 1,800 pounds of food to the veterinarian’s office.

Strong High School EAST – Raised $500 for tornado relief efforts in Vilonia and delivered the funds to the Vilonia High School softball team. Strong EAST students invite other EAST programs to match the funds raised.

Vilonia High School EAST- Collected and restored photographs found among tornado debris to return them to their owners. More information is found on the Vilonia Public Schools website: http://www.viloniaschools.org/around-vtown/post/2636

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Wynne High School EAST

Wynne High School EAST – Organized donation sites in Wynne and collaborated with Vilonia High School EAST students to deliver items and assist with tornado debris clean up.

All of these efforts underscored how connected the EAST family is between communities. While many of these projects are nowhere near as sophisticated as “typical” EAST projects, they do underscore the immediate need. In the days to come EAST students will undoubtedly begin to do what they do best: look for opportunities to create sophisticated projects using their vast technological and intellectual resources to help all the affected communities recover.

EAST Staff

EAST Staff

On a personal note, EAST staff volunteered in Vilonia Tuesday, May 6, to assist in clean up efforts. Like so many others, we were directly affected by this tragedy. One staff member lost a family member and one lives in Vilonia (fortunately she sustained only minor damage to her home). Our thoughts and prayers are with the communities that were ravaged by the storm and we take comfort in knowing as terrible as it is, an opportunity has been provided to show our hearts and love to our neighbors.

A photo gallery of EAST at work in the affected communities can be found here: http://bit.ly/EASTtornout

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EAST Initiative: An Arkansas Idea Worth Spreading

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Matt DozierPres./CEO - EAST Initiative

Matt Dozier
Pres./CEO – EAST Initiative

It is an honor for the EAST Initiative to be the feature of the most recent policy brief by the University of Arkansas’ Office of Education Policy (OEP). For our model of education to be highlighted by the largest institute of higher education in Arkansas is quite a testament to the successes that EAST schools and students have demonstrated using that model. On the heels of our best showcase of the power of EAST, Conference 2014, we are proud to see others want to showcase their work as well.

I’m personally excited to be a speaker at the Annual OEP Conference May 15, 2014 at the Clinton Center in Little Rock. I hope to see you there.

Originally posted on OEP Blog:

east Our newest policy brief features an innovative program with Arkansas roots that seeks to prepare students for both post-secondary opportunities and their future careers. The story of the EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology) Initiative begins with an Arkansas educator who wanted to connect his students’ learning to real-life experiences. Through this vision, the EAST  Initiative was born. Today, the EAST model combines project-based learning, technology, and community service with a STEM focus. EAST programs have been implemented throughout the state of Arkansas and have even expanded into other states. Below is a map of states that currently using the EAST model.

EAST mapeast core

Our policy brief describes the EAST model in more detail, including the newest addition to the EAST family, EAST Core, which is a part of Governor Beebe’s STEM Works Initiative and integrates the EAST model into core high school classes such as biology, geometry and chemistry. Furthermore, our policy brief highlights EAST programs…

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135 Years ago today and Five Days in the Future: EAST on the Brink

Matt DozierPres./CEO - EAST Initiative

Matt Dozier
Pres./CEO – EAST Initiative

It’s π Day here at EAST and I think that gives us a better excuse for being a little more irrational than we can be on typical days. Of course it’s also five…FIVE…5 days until the 2014 EAST Conference: Your Future is Trending Now! So that means that we’ve worked ourselves into that goofy, rapid-eye-blink, stage of excited, exhausted and in desperate need to exhale. You see the same sort of thing when you’ve been putting in those final cram/work sessions for finals, proms, weddings, etc.

Someone who is definitely ready for Conference is our Ambassador Team Leader, Elise Fry. She’s asked me to send along the following message:

Hey everyone! My name is Elise Fry and I’m a junior at Batesville High School. I am unbelievably honored this year to be the 2014 EAST Conference Ambassador Team Leader! The team this year includes twenty-two of some of the best EAST students, all of whom are extremely excited to help out and be a vital part of this year’s conference. Our Ambassador Team is dedicated to making your conference the best one yet by making sure that all aspects of the event run smoothly. You will see us work throughout conference—we will be in the breakout session hallway, the gear booth, registration and helping conference attendees and VIPs with anything they might need. We will be presenting at the Opening Plenary, Banquet and Closing Session (which will be tons of fun this year, I promise)!

I know I speak on behalf of the entire team when I say that one of our favorite parts of conference is meeting all our fellow students and learning their EAST story. Talk to us! Tell us about how you started in EAST and how you’ve grown since. Visit with us about possibly applying for Ambassador Team next year; it’s an amazing opportunity and we would love to tell you all about it. We are so excited to visit with your schools and help you in whatever way you need. I hope to see you all very soon in Hot Springs on March 19th, it’s right around the corner!

Photo used for PPT Slide - Ambassador

Indeed it is, Elise. Indeed it is. This year the Ambassadors spent two days out in the deep, dark woods of Ferndale, Ark., preparing for next week. They planned, practiced and bonded. They have honed their craft. So whether you need directions to a breakout session, instructions on how to put out a fire with a small stick and two Styrofoam cups (have no fears we have an Eagle Scout on the team), or need to share your particular brand of grief on the loss of a favorite hamster (Gilley, we hardly knew ye….) they are standing by, willing and able.

With that in mind, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the 135th anniversary of the birth of one of the architects of the modern age (the delicious coincidence that he was born on π Day is not lost here). When Albert Einstein first started publishing his ideas the world he lived in was operating under a general hubris that we were on the downhill side of knowledge discovery. It was widely assumed that there was almost nothing left to learn in physics and the other sciences were all but figured out as well. You know what happens when you think you’ve got everything figured out, right? Exactly.

I think Professor Einstein would have made a great EAST facilitator. Below are some of the observations he made that lead me to that conclusion:

“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn”.— Albert Einstein

“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination.”—Albert Einstein

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”—Albert Einstein

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”–Albert Einstein

I think he would have made a better EAST student, though. Think about it, a lowly Swiss Patent Clerk, in a single year, published three papers that revolutionized two professional fields of study and caused a complete re-examination of how we thought about the universe…the UNIVERSE…and our place in it. Self-directed, yep. Passion for learning, absolutely. Desire to share and better the world, all over the place. Imagine what he could have done with a few years in EAST under his belt?!? ;)-

See you at conference. Think big thoughts.

Until then,

MD

Einstein_1921_by_F_Schmutzer

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Ice, Ice Baby! When Technology Opens a Door

What are you supposed to do in the middle of the long drawn-out winter? With schools perhaps seeing once-in-a-generation levels of inclement weather closings, it can be frustrating for EAST programs trying to sustain projects and prepare for conference. One program has an answer that makes a bold EAST statement. At the beginning of the week, while even the EAST staff was iced out of the office, students and faculty at Sonora Elementary in Springdale, Arkansas, said, “we have work to do.” I was fortunate enough to join the work for a bit, and now I am fortunate enough to share it with you. Our guest blogger today is Dr. Regina Stewman, principal of Sonora Elementary. – Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO.

By Dr. Regina Stewman
Principal, Sonora Elementary

With snow (ice) day number 12 at our door, it was time to get creative.

snow day chart

We know that the children we serve do not just learn best sitting in a desk/table in a classroom listening to a teacher recite their knowledge.  No, they need to be active learners, participating in the knowledge acquisition. The students sitting in our classrooms today are of the Generation Z (born 1996 and forward). For these students, the internet and other forms of technology have been major influences in their lives. They are accustomed to and need immediate feedback – their gratification! As teachers,we must change how we teach and engage students.  One of our teachers at Sonora is highlighting that today through the use of Google Chat.

Josh Worthy, our Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) Facilitator, is iced in like the rest of us today.  Yet, our conference team is preparing for conference, which is two weeks away.  There is no time to waste.  Therefore, his students are working from the safety of their homes with Google Chat.

Last night he sent out an e-mail to all his conference students:

“We’re going to try something new tomorrow.  Since school has been canceled and it looks like it may be a day or two before our kids will be able to work together, I’m going to host an online Google Hangout tomorow morning and maybe another one in the afternoon.  This is a lot like a Skype call that the kids can video chat or text chat back and forth about projects, ideas, etc.  

I’d like for Rikki and Kylie to practice their Founder’s presentation if at all possible. Morgan, Landen and I would also be able to work on the Camp Alliance story map together through the Hangout. Cayden would even be able to show us how to use Pivot animator through the “screen share” option. Kalyssa and Lexus should be able to work on nametag design and booth ideas, too. Not sure if I can get ahold of Josh H., but I’ll keep trying. It could be a REALLY cool event. The best part is that it would keep your kids busy for an hour or two during the snow day. ;)

All you really need is an internet connection and a computer. If you have a webcam, awesome. If you have a mic, even better. If you don’t have ANY of this, you can even call in from your phone. It’s pretty cool stuff. I’m hosting the event, so the chat will be private and only approved Sonora EAST students and parents will have access…no strangers or unauthorized creeps will have access.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know. Looking to launch the conference call around 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. It should be a lot of fun and it is kind of exciting to be able to work on EAST stuff while the kids are snowed in.”

So, this a.m. the children, safe in their homes, were hard at work on their EAST projects and EAST Conference preparation. Yes, these students had an option. They CHOSE to do this on a snow day! Pretty powerful stuff!

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Using Social Media (Twitter and Facebook) to spread the word, they were lucky enough to get Mr. Matt Dozier, EAST CEO, to join them. As I type this they have taken a break for lunch but will reconvene. They have even added a previous student to the conversation.

Matt

You may be wondering why I haven’t joined them.  Well, my school computer does not have audio or video. I can watch, but not participate.  So, I chose to share their story!
Great things are happening at Sonora Elementary!
Note:
Our EAST students are finalists in the Founder’s Award for EAST, an award in honor of the founder, Tim Stephenson. This is their second year as finalist. In the history of this award, our program is the only elementary ever to be finalist! (Can you tell I am proud of them?)
You can check out the full events and posts of the day on the Sonora EAST Facebook page. You can find out more about the EAST Initiative at their website.

Special thanks to Dr. Regina Stewman for sharing this post with us and an extra special thanks to the students and faculty at Sonora Elementary for working hard and keeping me on my toes. You are truly inspiring! Neither rain, nor sleep, nor dead of night, can keep EAST students from helping to solve problems. 

Until next time,
MD
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EAST: Service-Based Learning

Today’s blog post is from guest contributor Jennifer Skinner of Searcy Living magazine. Everyone that knows me knows how much I love to brag on EAST students and the changes EAST can make in how students see their future and themselves. Do you know what I love even more? When someone else brags on us. – Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO

By Jennifer Skinner
Searcy Living, Issue 1 2014

587e8a4a14d688b300065506861533d0It is not often that students in high school become passionate and excited about their homework. You do not frequently see them admit to having life changing experiences from a high school elective course. Furthermore, it is rare that students will give up their free time on summer break to work on school projects that will impact their community.

But that is exactly what students in the EAST Initiative program at Searcy High School are doing when they become inspired through their work on projects for the community. Students get to “follow their passion for positive change. When a student is passionate about a topic, it is personal and they truly want to make a difference,” says Rinda Hall, EAST Facilitator at SHS.

These students are making a difference in the community in big ways by taking on some large projects in Searcy. Some of the projects include developing the Walk Through History trail with Searcy Parks and Recreation, creating a video for the White County Domestic Violence Prevention Organization and working with the Searcy Fire Department to code the GPS locations for fire hydrants around town.

e707c45d936696d6e1f672676348b299Hall explains that “EAST is a service-learning-based course where students learn through hands-on community projects. Students are encouraged to look for problems within their community and actively work to solve them. Our classroom offers the latest in software technology to assist them in their endeavors.”

These high school students are doing impressive work serving our community by developing the Walk Through History trail. Project manager and SHS junior Hunter Ingle explains in his article “the trail provides a means to keep in shape as well as learn about the historical properties of our great town. The Walk Through History Trail stretches from West Arch to Harding University. Famous businesses and properties such as Yarnell’s Ice Cream Company, the Benjamin Clayton Black House, Quattlebaum’s and the Rialto Theater dot the trail. The Searcy Courthouse stands in the center. The distance is about the equivalence of a 5K, or 3.3 miles. The history of each property is on the interactive website that the Searcy EAST program is in the process of making.”

The SHS EAST program has also been working with the Searcy Fire Department for about two years getting real world experience with technical applications. Donald Garringer, a captain at SFD, explained the project helps students learn to put technology to work in the field. The students learn to take a written format and convert it into technical data, creating digital maps in place of paper ones. This is beneficial to the SFD because students are able to do work that would require time and resources of the department. Garringer says they are appreciative of the work the students are doing.

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The experiences students are gaining and the skills they are learning in EAST are already becoming life-changing events. Hunter Ingle, who plans to be a lawyer in the future, says, “I have learned to step out of my comfort zone in EAST. I used to be a shy kid who sat in the corner of the room. Now I maintain an active role in the program. EAST has taught me about leadership roles, teamwork, innovation and community service to help my future. I’ve learned about innovation and great people skills in the program. The course is not a regular class with textbooks and tests. Communication skills are needed to get anywhere. These are leadership skills I would never have learned in orthodox classrooms.”

Haley Matheny, also a junior, explains “this course has taught me a lot about deadlines and how projects need to be set up and carried out. The projects I have done have taught me how to better the community with technology. This class has given me a taste of what I will be learning at college and what I will be using in my career. In one year, I learned how to write and direct a film, which is something I hope to be doing for the rest of my life.”

Another eleventh grader in the program, Larry Dicus says, “EAST has taught me how to take the initiative to complete something I’ve started, what I want to get a degree in when I go to college and self-directed learning.”

Hall says there are many useful skills students learn in this course including professionalism and problem-solving but most importantly they learn self-reliance and build teamwork skills that will help them throughout their lives. Hall says, “I tell people that I am the luckiest person in the world to be facilitating this class. I get to witness a more powerful change, a deep-down belief in their own self-confidence and recognition in their ability to go farther and do more than they ever would have guessed before.”

Great things are happening in Searcy and all over EAST country. I want to send a personal note of thanks to Ms. Skinner for helping to share that message.

Until next time,

MD

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