Students at Belle Point Center in Fort Smith on Monday received a lesson in disaster response from the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office.
A world history class made up of 10th- through 12th-graders made its way to the Belle Point parking lot at 9 a.m. Monday to tour the department’s incident command center. Deputies answered questions from the students about the facility’s purpose, its technology and other subjects.
The students are taught by Michelle Johnson, the Belle Point Center social studies teacher for grades 9-12, who said the experience helped launch a class project on disaster preparation.
“… We are discussing how past natural disasters and man-made disasters, how it was responded to, and what we can learn from them to be better prepared today, and … we’re going to actually, as a project, try ways to kind of prepare our community better in the case of a man-made or natural disaster,” Johnson said.
Belle Point Center is a New Tech academy built around four learning outcomes: agency, knowledge and thinking, written and oral communication and collaboration. It also utilizes project-based learning to teach students how to become effective problem-solvers.
“… You do a launch to kind of introduce the unit, and I coordinated with the sheriff’s department and asked, I knew that they had this incident command center that responds to natural disasters or anything where there’s an emergency in the community, and I thought that’d be a great way to kind of show how we respond today because now we’ll go back into the classroom and discuss the history and then kind of tie it … back into today,” Johnson said.
Prior to beginning its first year as a part of the California-based New Tech Network in 2016, Belle Point New Tech was known as the Belle Point Alternative Center.
The next stage after the project launch, according to Johnson, will be the creation of an entry document that will allow the students to proceed further with the project.
“… I’ll make up an actual document, but I can pretend it’s from the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, saying how they need our help to be prepared here in the Fort Smith area for in case there was an epidemic or pandemic to break out,” Johnson said. “So from there, then we begin … our learning and where they do their research, and then, as we’re learning stuff, they are working to put a final project together, and then they’ll present it.”
Johnson said the project will also include field trips and guest speakers.