Craig Middle School student’s 20Time project raises money for River Watch |

Craig Middle School student’s 20Time project raises money for River Watch

Kayce Pierce sits surrounded by her photography. She earned more than $800 during a special show and sale at Craig Middle School in December. Pierce is donating all profits to the school's River Watch program.
Sasha Nelson

Craig Middle School eight-grade student Kayce Pierce spent 20 percent of her time in science enrichment class on a photography project that has resulted in sales of roughly $850.

Profits will go to benefit the school’s River Watch program.

“I have always had a thing for photography, but I’d never tried it,” Pierce said. “I thought this would be a great way to express what I felt.”

Pierce’s middle school science teacher, Ashlee McBurnett, gave her accelerated science students the opportunity to use 20 percent of their class time to develop a creative project.

The idea was inspired by a talk given by Moffat County High School business teacher Krista Schenck, who talked about applying Google’s policy of 20 percent time to the classroom during a summer Google gathering for teachers.

Google’s “20 percent time” encourages employees to spend 20 percent of their time, or one day a week, on projects that “aren’t necessarily in our job descriptions,” according to Google’s official blog.

Google can’t take all the credit.

According to, “3M started it in the 1950s with their 15 percent project. The result? Post-its and masking tape. Google is credited for making the 20 percent project what it is today as a result we now have Gmail, AdSense, Google News, and the Google Teacher Academy.”

Kevin Brookhouser, author of the 20Time Project said, “20Time brings real-world problem solving to achieve rigorous academic goals” including the opportunity for students to learn autonomy, mastery and productivity — all necessary for innovation.

Originally Pierce was going to compare photo apps available for use on cell phones, but she changed her mind.

“I told my teacher, I don’t want to do this. Instead, I want to take actual pictures and sell them for River Watch,” Pierce said.

River Watch began in the spring of 1989 with two-hour trainings at six schools along the Yampa River, according to the River Watch Colorado website.

The program sends supplies to the school, but schools have to pay to send samples off for testing.

“It’s really expensive to do things for the River Watch program and our teacher was buying stuff herself,” Pierce said. “So I decided to help out next semester so they can have all the stuff they need.”

She took her photos in the Meeker area during a weekend volleyball tournament at which Pierce was also a participant.

Then after many meetings with, and support from, CMS Principal David Grabowski, Pierce was able to show and sell her photos at the middle school in early December.

Pierce’s grandmother, Kim Grant, helped her choose images to print and display as well as helped to create an order form for the show.

“I think it’s amazing at her age level,” Grant said. “She stuck with the project from beginning to end. She never gave up. She is persistent and was confident in presenting herself at the show. I think she can go far with it.”

At the show, she received help from her mother, Jessica Barrett.

“It’s amazing. She is very talented. I was not expecting what she did. I thought it would be just a few photos. It was way more than I expected,” Barrett said.

Not all 20Time projects succeed, and that’s OK by McBurnett.

“Success doesn’t come from always getting everything right,” said McBurnett. “I asked them to follow it through and tell us why it didn’t work and what could have been done better next time.”

Pierce has elected to continue her studies in McBurnett’s science enrichment class and is excited about taking her project to the next level. However, her first task is to ensure everyone who bought a photo receives it.

“Everything will be ready to pick up at the school after Christmas break,” said Pierce. “Thanks to all those who donated.”

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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