Hiawatha Elementary students artist of the month

by RACHAL PINKERTON
Staff Writer | June 9, 2020 5:29 PM

OTHELLO — Sixth-grade science students at Hiawatha Elementary School are the featured artists for the month of June at the Old Hotel Art Gallery, in Othello.

Prior to school being closed early, sixth-grade science teacher Hillary Fought was having her students create displays on how various rock formations in the Columbia Basin were formed.

“In our district in Othello, we have a method of instruction called problem-based learning,” Fought said. “Kids are given a problem that they have to solve. Their problem was how to create a display about the geological history of the Columbia Basin.”

As part of the project, students had a sustained inquiry, had to become involved in the research process and gather content. The students learned about the volcanic activity in the area, plate tectonics, the floods that impacted the area and the way rock formations are made.

“Everything was about what created the area in which we live,” Fought said. “We learned about the general rock cycle and processes as a group. Then they got to pick a specific formation that interested them. In small groups, they applied the processes they had learned to the formation.”

The students studied the major formations in the area, such as Palouse Falls, the coulees around the area, Dry Falls, White Bluffs, the Potholes, Drumhellers, columnar basalt and the current ripples above Trinidad.

After the displays were made, students were to present their findings and projects to the class. They would then have the opportunity to earn extra credit by answering questions posed by the public during the Sandhill Crane Festival.

But none of that took place. The students completed their posters the day that school was canceled.

Fought said that by doing the projects for public viewing, students become more engaged in the material that they normally might have been.

“Earth science is not the most exciting thing,” Fought said.

Fought said that instead of talking about random rock formations in places that students have never been, the students were able to learn about places where they had been, making it personal.

“They got the choice of what they got to research,” Fought said. “They knew they had a purpose and they knew this was going to be on display for the public.”

Fought had students practice answering the various types of questions that they might receive at the Sandhill Crane Festival.

“We were all really bummed,” Fought said, that the students were not able to present their projects to each other or the public with COVID-19 closing school and causing the Sandhill Crane Festival to be canceled.

With all the hard work that the students had put into the projects, Fought wanted them to be displayed. So she asked Jenn Stevenson, manager of the Old Hotel Art Gallery, if she would be willing to display the projects.

“She was excited to get them, which was nice,” Fought said. “They did a really fabulous job on the displays.”

Fought would like to have her students do the same project again next year and present them at the Sandhill Crane Festival. But with the uncertainty of how school will look next year, she is not sure if that will happen.

“If school is going to be normal, definitely yes (they will).”

The projects will be on display at the Old Hotel Art Gallery through June 22.

Rachal Pinkerton may be reached via email at rpinkerton@suntribunenews.com.