By Todd Martin

Special to the Daily Herald

Fifth-graders at Iduma Elementary School dove into social issues that can baffle even well-educated adults for their end-of-year research projects Wednesday.

In the cafeteria, library, classrooms and through hallways, the school served as a showcase for research and action plans regarding hunger, abuse, discrimination and dozens more social problems.

The annual exhibition caps off the year at schools such as Iduma, which follow the Primary Years Program, the elementary component of the International Baccalaureate Program.

A group of three fifth-graders chose world hunger for their project and conducted a food drive as part of their action plan.

Fifth-grader Raychel Kuntz said the group's research indicated the world produces plenty of food to feed the ever-growing global population. Hunger happens, she said, due to economic and other issues in certain countries.

In Egypt, for example, Kuntz said many people subsist on $1 a day, not enough to provide nutrition in that economy.

But change is possible, she said. "We can donate to food banks and have food drives and hopefully start a chain reaction."

Gale Jones, program coordinator at Iduma, said fifth-graders started researching issues in January. By March, they began more intense study and put together written, oral and visual components.

Teachers help form student groups based on shared interests and groups work together on action plans. The end product gets displayed at the annual exhibition.

Another group of students chose terrorism as a topic and collected food and hygiene products for overseas soldiers. Another group chose economics and gas prices, and circulated a petition to release more crude oil into the market.

Fifth-grader Carolyn Orona said she learned about supply and demand - that consumer use of fuel drives escalating gas prices - through her research.

"It was hard to find all the information at first, but there are a lot of good resources," said Orona.

Now I know about the economy and I know how to save money and not buy whatever I see."

As students prepare their work, Iduma springs to action, with faculty members serving as mentors.

But, said Jones, "It's all student-driven."

The structure leads to lasting learning, academic and personal.

"They gain self-confidence," she said. "They learn about their issue and grow academically through the oral and written pieces and they find out, 'I can do something that's huge.'"

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