Students at Renaissance Academy in Clarksville have a different approach to learning, much of it project-based, real-world problem-solving.
So when the school was presented with the opportunity for a project extending outside the school — creating plaques of recognition for the corporate community partners who have donated time or funds to the Clarksville Community School Corp. — two students jumped right in.
Since January, juniors Keegan Allred and Jordan Cunningham have been working together to create the more than 40 awards. They were presented Tuesday night to the sponsors at a special school board meeting and reception.
Through the project, which was outside of their regular school work, the two learned how to calculate and design the awards, using software such as Adobe Illustrator and the school’s new-this-year laser printer.
The result was a finished product the students — and the corporation — were proud to give to their community partners.
“They’re really fabulous-looking,” Brian Allred, the school’s director said. “We’re just so proud of them and pleased with the kids, what they were able to do. They worked hard to get those to come out.”
That means a lot of troubleshooting, trial and error, and teamwork. They even sought out their own better materials at a lower price, and presented this to the superintendent for approval.
Since the laser printer was new to them, they learned to use it during the process. Now, they can teach others and use the printer for other projects.
Allred said the project also helps illustrate the school’s educational program.
“This is what project-based learning is,” he said. “This is how we do things. You have a problem … what kind of a solution can you come up with? You do the research, you do some problem solving.
“They had some bumps, [but] they figured out what they needed to do.”
Cunningham said he was glad to get the opportunity to not only do something for the community, but learn how to use the materials and tools involved.
“Since we really wanted to learn about it, we were able to put ourselves into the project so even though it’s not for a class, it’s going to help us if we ever want to use it one day.”
The students also put in a lot of time on a project that wasn’t for a grade, even after-school hours, to ensure the plaques were ready in time for Tuesday’s ceremony. Both say that they prefer this style of learning to education in a more traditional setting.
“I never thought in a million years I would have wanted to stay until 11:30 on a Friday [night],” Cunningham said. “I think you have a different will to do it when it’s fascinating and it’s something that’s going to help you in the future.”
“It’s a totally different way of learning, but I’ve learned a lot more,” Keegan Allred said. “I’ve learned so much more than sitting in a classroom and regurgitating the information that’s given me.”