"Our hope is that the students come to understand how math is used in everyday situations, the types of jobs that utilize math skills, and that reading is the core and foundation for almost every interesting job there is," says Patricia Fuchs.
To that end, students in the basic standards math and reading classes at Humboldt Senior High School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, engage in community projects that exercise those skills.
"Our painting project involved four math classes," Fuchs, Humboldt's family liaison, reported. "The math teacher and I canvassed the neighborhood to find a one-story garage in need of painting. Students had to use estimation and measurements to figure out how long it would take them to walk to and from the garage from school, the total area of the garage to be painted, how much paint would be needed, how long it would take them to paint it, and how long scraping would take."
Another long-term community project has Humboldt basic standards classes redesigning a local park. The students are working with an architectural firm, the city's parks and recreation department, several neighborhood agencies, and people from the neighborhood. The students presented their visions for the park to their parents and the project partners last spring, and Fuchs and other staff members hope this project will encourage the students to become active in local government. The entire redesign of the park will take at least five years.
"Students visited the park, put together scale maps, and formed groups to decide how the park would be used," Fuchs told Education World. "They researched equipment for the park, such as benches, garbage cans, lighting, playground equipment, fountains, grills, and tables. Then each group designed its own vision for the park and created a three-dimensional rendition on a scale map that they presented to staff and families."
Although some of the students were initially reluctant to join in such a comprehensive project, most have become excited about the lasting positive influence of the remodeled park. Their families have been supportive of the students' efforts.
"It is going to be difficult to maintain enthusiasm for a project that these students may not see completed until long after they finish school," reported Fuchs. "That in itself is an excellent lesson about how long projects can take, as well as the machinery involved in city and local governments."
Because she has recently moved to an early childhood special education position within the same district, Fuchs will be one of the many watching and waiting for the high school students' vision to be realized.