05/10/17 — Collaboration education: Learning from each other

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Collaboration education: Learning from each other

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on May 10, 2017 8:45 AM

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Jamira Hawkins, a sixth-grader at Dillard Middle School, puts the finishing touches on a T-shirt design she and classmate Mykyla Hines developed as part of a project-based learning exercise.

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Jamira Hawkins, left, a sixth-grader at Dillard Middle School, helps classmate Aayanna Williams-Bryant with the computer portion of an exercise to create a design for a school T-shirt.

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Sandra Johnson, standing, a sixth-grade English/language arts teacher at Dillard Middle School, speaks with students Aayanna Williams-Bryant and Jamira Hawkins about their T-shirt designs they are creating on a computer.

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Shikwan Conner and Amanze David, sixth-graders at Dillard Middle School, collaborate on a T-shirt design as part of a project-based learning exercise at the school.

Jamel Jones is a fan of the teachable moment.

And for the assistant principal at Dillard Middle School, efforts to  provide those for his students have also produced a full circle moment for him.

A graduate of Charles B. Aycock High School, he spent four years of his teaching career at his alma mater before moving into the administrative role at Dillard in 2013.

The school introduced Tiger Academy this past fall, a school-within-a-school concept to infuse more electives into the last hour of the day. It also touts the educational concept of "project-based learning," a dynamic approach in collaborative learning.

The academy has about 85 students, primarily in grades seven and eight, with about a dozen sixth-grade students being introduced into the program this spring.

Jones reached out to a former colleague at CBA, Tammy Vail, who leads the school's award-winning DECA program that has a strong emphasis on marketing and entrepreneurship.

"When I was a teacher at CBA, Tammy and I started collaborating with our classes," he said.

With the middle school embarking on the Project-Based Learning idea this year, Jones said he wanted his students to realize that being an entrepreneur was within their reach. He couldn't think of a better place to start than his former "home," CBA.

"They talked to Ms. Vail and kids learn better from other kids," he said. "It's really good to see them be excited."

The field trip allowed CBA students to talk with the middle schoolers and brainstorm their project.

The goal now, Jones explained, is to allow students, through project-based learning, to create a school store that will be run by and for students.

"I have been wanting to do this since I have been here," Jones said.

Students were receptive, he said, but there were still challenges.

"Our students had a hard time putting the store together due to the lack of understanding of business and the willpower it takes to see something happen," he said.

Their first assignment was to work individually or in pairs on what is hoped will be the first product for sale when the school store opens -- a school T-shirt.

Lashonnie Howell wanted to incorporate the school letters, DMS, into the design, adding the mascot, a tiger.

"Me and my partner came up with a design and the message, 'Be Aware Tiger Nation' for the back of the shirt," said classmate Jamira Hawkins.

"We thought about it and talked about it," added her partner on the project, Mykyla Hines.

Aayanna Williams-Bryant tackled the design project solo.

"It was a fun experience, and I really liked it," she said. "But I thought we had to specifically do this for the school. I would like to do another one."

Classmates Amanze David and Shikwan Conner's design featured a large looming tiger in the foreground, its arms enveloping the words "Dillard, Home of the Tigers."

They were excited about the field trip to CBA to learn more about business.

"It was good to put our ideas together," Amanze said.

The winning design from the dozen created by the sixth-graders will be featured on the T-shirt, with the printing process overseen by the CBA students.

"We'll print one for each of the students, and I think once we're able to order a bulk order, we will, but right now they'll begin to do advertising," Jones said, adding, "We actually found money for them to start out, to show them about a startup business. So the school is going to loan them some money to start up."

Sandra Johnson, sixth grade English/language arts teacher at Dillard, said she appreciated the enthusiasm her students brought to the project.

"I really liked the fact that they were able to collaborate with the older students from CBA," she said. "I believe they learned a lot.

"I'm excited to see what happens next year. We're going to continue with the collaboration."

Ms. Vail and her students did a great job of modeling the concept of entrepreneurship and taking risks, Jones said.

"They did a really good job of showing them that you can't succeed if you don't try," he said.

The new way of teaching also incorporates standards found on the end-of-grade tests, the assistant principal said.

"They don't realize how much they're learning in the process," he said. "They think they're just having fun."