For about two hours, the fifth-grader taught younger students and older guests the complex realities of water pollution.
He spoke with conviction, explaining his model of contaminated water displayed in a plastic container.
Peebles Elementary School fifth-grader Malakai Jackson picked up a jug of brownish water he collected. He showed students a picture he drew illustrating dirty water flowing into a stream.
Jackson also showed on a laptop computer a video he made. His presentation area was so packed with information that he kept a yardstick in hand, using it to point out additional pictures hanging from the ceiling. One showed a fish with a tumor.
In between presentations, the ambitious fifth-grader explained his experience conducting research and presenting his project for Peebles’ fifth-grade exhibition. Much of the Earth’s water is impure, he said and fish and other animals, including humans are at risk. What really gets him, though, Jackson said, is that we can all help the problem by picking up trash before it washes into rivers, streams and oceans. Jackson actually wanted to study nuclear waste, but made the connection to water contamination and decided it was a better topic.
“It is interesting that hardly any water in the world is really clean,” said Jackson, noting trash on the beach and the paint, oil and cast-aside pet droppings that make its way into rivers and streams. “I want to do something to save it,” he said. These days, the fifth-grader said he picks up trash he sees and puts it in his pocket until he can get it to a trash can or recycle bin.
Peebles’ fifth-graders worked from the broad theme of how we express ourselves. From that theme, the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program school narrowed the project focus slightly to a central idea of creative expressions for communicating the human experience.
Over two months, the students researched a wide range of global issues. On June 3, they presented their findings to their younger peers and to guests.
Students conducted research to piece together essays and a presentation and integrated art and technology and included an action plan to address their issue.
Fifth-grade teachers, who guided their students’ work without defining it for them, said it was impressive to see such young students take ownership in their complicated topics.
“They got so excited,” said fifth-grade teacher Yotta Wilber. Pointing out one student, she said, “She got so upset about air pollution and was elated to see the EPA figure was lower than expected.
“They come to me and say ‘Did you know, Ms. Wilber?’”
“It was stressful, but fun,” said fifth-grader Aida Ruiz, who studied the issue of puppy mills and other acts of animal cruelty.
She used a pet taxi filled with stuffed animals to help explain her research. Many dogs, she said, are trapped in breeding mills, rarely getting exercise while living in misery.
“I think this opportunity to go through the research process so early is wonderful,” said fifth-grade teacher Gelixa Rodriguez. “It becomes a basis for them to do better research in middle school and high school.”
Fifth-grader Bryan Nash became impassioned in informing the public about dyslexia, a condition he has. With video, diagram and his own researched knowledge, Nash explained that dyslexia is a neurological obstacle that can create a literal “scatterbrained” effect in processing information.
He also said that most everyone has some dyslexic tendencies and that those tendencies account for much of human creativity.
“I think it opens their eyes to the world,” said Rodriguez of the exhibition experience. “For some, this community is all they know.”