Craig residents Joel Sheridan, center, and his wife, Janet, speak Wednesday morning to Melany Neton’s second-grade class at Sunset Elementary School about life-long learning. The Sheridans were “experts” Neton brought in to speak as part of Sunset’s school-wide action project, which the school launched this year.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Craig residents Joel Sheridan, center, and his wife, Janet, speak Wednesday morning to Melany Neton’s second-grade class at Sunset Elementary School about life-long learning. The Sheridans were “experts” Neton brought in to speak as part of Sunset’s school-wide action project, which the school launched this year.

School-wide program at Sunset intended to connect students to community

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At a glance …

• Sunset Elementary School organizing a school-wide action project.

• Project focused on health and fitness and includes students at all grade levels.

• Project includes a one-mile fun run for students, parents and teachers at 1:45 p.m. today.

• Other planned activities include creating a healthy cookbook.

• Principal: project designed to teach children about healthy lifestyles, importance of being connected to the community.

Quotable

“We want the students to feel that they are part of the school community, part of the wider community ... and empowered to feel like they make a difference in that community.”

—Zack Allen, Sunset Elementary School principal

You don’t stop learning when you leave school, Craig residents Joel and Janet Sheridan told a group of Sunset Elementary School second-graders Wednesday.

The Sheridans described the skills they had to learn at every stage of life, from learning how to read and solve basic math problems to using new technology, like computers and cell phones.

Their presentation to Melany Neton’s class was part of a new project the school is pioneering this year. It’s called a school-wide action project, and this fall the ultimate goal is to connect students to the world around them.

“We want the students to feel that they are part of the school community, part of the wider community ... and empowered to feel like they make a difference in that community,” principal Zack Allen said.

Teachers chose health and fitness as the theme for the inaugural project, which includes bringing in community “experts” who can speak to physical and mental aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

It also includes a one-mile fun run scheduled for today at 1:45 p.m. The run is mainly for children in kindergarten through fifth grades, but students’ parents can join in, too.

What makes this project different, Allen said, is it encompasses all grade levels in learning about a topic and eventually completing a project that benefits the community.

For example, students will gather healthy recipes and compile them into a cookbook, which will be available by donation.

The final, culminating project — or the “action” part of the new program’s title — has yet to be finalized, Allen said.

Although this is the first time Sunset as a whole has done this kind of project, the concept isn’t new. Cheryl Arnett, a teacher at the school, did something similar last year.

Beginning in November 2010, Arnett’s second-grade class tackled the subject of Craig and Moffat County’s deer population. They heard from local experts, analyzed the situation and created a brochure called The Deer Are Here to Stay, which eventually made it into Smithsonian In Your Classroom, a twice-yearly publication put out by the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies in Washington, D.C.

That project became the inspiration for SWAP, Allen said.

This week, Sunset teachers have incorporated Red Ribbon Week, a national anti-drug campaign, into SWAP by emphasizing the healthy habits students can adopt in place of drugs.

“I think finding a passion, finding a hobby, finding something that you can be passionate about that isn’t destructive but constructive, I think furthers not only their lives but the community in general,” Allen said.

In Neton’s perspective, learning about healthy lifestyles is important, especially in the elementary grades.

“I think they’re setting the stage early for life,” she said.

Regardless of the theme, though, the goal of SWAP is the same: cultivating a sense of connection with the people around them.

“Students that feel connected to their community, that feel like they can make a difference in their community, are more likely to be successful,” Allen said.

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