King/Robinson Inter-District Magnet School fourth-grader Jayden Spell was handing out key rings, which he helped to research, design and fabricate, so that any time you “open or lock your house you think of women’s rights.”
Spell was with the four other students on his team as the entire fourth grade at King/Robinson, an International Baccalaureate School, engaged in an annual fourth-grade rite of passage at the school: exhibiting their “IB PYP,” or primary research project, based on a global or local issue the kids are passionate about; researching it and then presenting it, but always with an action component.
Thus the key ring.
Since 2008, the kids have been doing their PYP at King/Robinson itself, with volunteer teachers as mentors, said Linzi Golding, a teacher at the school for 15 years and the PYP coordinator for the past five.
With increasingly less free time for teachers, this year Golding launched a partnership with future teachers studying at the nearby campus of Southern Connecticut State University, and specifically one of the education classes taught by Dr. Laura Bower-Phipps.
Since January, juniors at Southern have been mentoring the King/Robinson kids as part of their own coursework, and nurturing the project one hour a week, culminating in the presentations Friday morning.
Exhibits on display at the new Advanced Science and Laboratory Building off Fitch Street covered 15 subjects chosen from the kids’ “heart charts,” or their first choices, said Golding.
At the Health and Wellness project display, Montaya Worthy-Lasdon was handing out the exact location of the green markets in the Greater New Haven area as part of her action component, where one can eat and shop more healthfully; I had not known about several of these markets.
And I learned from Worthy-Lasdon’s colleagues on the Health and Wellness project, Eva Berthelot-Hill and Adlin Ahmad Rizal, how many kids simply don’t like to exercise or eat healthfully, as the team had done an online survey of kids in their grade and created graphs based on their findings. That’s why part of their action component was taking paper plates, drawing funny faces on them, and urging passers-by to fill up those plates with carrots for eyebrows and maybe a grape for each of the eyes.
Adlin told me one of the reasons she was passionate about this subject is that in her life, “I’ve seen a lot of people give up on diets. They start healthy and they have a cheat day, then a cheat week, and then they eat cupcakes.”
Montaya confessed to a little cheating herself, saying that after she’s done exercising, “I like to eat junk.”
Looking like entries in a science fair, but one more oriented toward the social sciences, anthropology and the humanities, the kids’ projects filled up a sunlit corridor on the first floor of the building. With their graphs, plates of vegetables, key rings, and eagerness, the kids stood in the sunlight waiting to make their findings — and their cases — to all passers-by.
Janiela Gore shared the leadership of the Toy Safety exhibit with Nysir Harris and Avier London. They said you should be careful and examine the toys you play with, or let kids play with — even the old stalwarts like the 1940s-era Slinky that I may still have somewhere in the attic.
“I was doing like [stretching the Slinky] and I let it go, and it hit me in my neck and it left a tiny mark,” Gore told me as I walked by.
At the nearby World Peace display, which was researched and created by Ab’gail Little, Savion Rogers, Ty’nique Turner, and Brianna Rodriguez, Rodriguez showed me her research proving the thesis that “war affects mostly children.” She said that in the past 20 years, two million children have been killed in wars, according to research she did, including at the Changing The Present website.
As Golding monitored the 15 exhibition stations in the building — and occasionally wondered if Southern’s new president might show up — she was also choreographing the visits of many of the younger children being bused over from the nearby King/Robinson campus to see what the older kids had done.
She radiated a lot of pride. “The Baccalaureate program compels our students to take action. It’s the very heart of the project,” she said.