Middle School Students Present COVID-19 Capstone Projects to County Executive

     Published on 9/1/20   Tagged under:    District News    Clary Middle School    Syracuse Latin   

Middle school students taking part in summer school at Clary had an impressive opportunity to cap their summer learning: a Zoom presentation to Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon!
Led by Clary Humanities MCL Hayley Downs and Disciplinary Literacy Coach Jonathan Hawa, students in grades 6-8 spent six weeks on an engaging COVID-19 related project. Each student pretended to be a local restaurant owner looking to reopen their business during COVID-19. They were presented with a challenge and were asked to use the content they learned in ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies to solve it, while ensuring the safety of their employees and customers.
Students followed the engineering design process to identify their problem, conduct research, draft potential solutions, test the solution, make improvements and create a plan to share their ideas. At the end of the project, they met with County Executive McMahon via Zoom to share their work.
“We were hoping students would begin to draw connections between all their courses and learn how their learned content connects to the outside world,” Mr. Hawa said. “It’s important for students to not see their course work in isolation. In addition, we were hoping for students to begin thinking about their community and develop a voice for change. Having the ability to present to the County Executive, in our opinion, made it more real and relevant to their research. A typical research paper is often directly related to a specific subject area and is developed through research. Creating an interdisciplinary course forced students to use different components from each content area and learn how it applies to their task.”
Clary seventh grader Tristan Bey presented his ideas for outdoor restaurant seating that would keep employees and customers safe. He researched the pandemic of 1918 and noted how things reopened after that pandemic, comparing it to today’s pandemic situation. He shared his ideas on having customer order online before they arrive at the restaurant, placing employees on unpaid suspension for breaking mask and hand washing rules, offering hand sanitizer at each table and more.
Clary seventh grader Breann Brooks dove into a math problem: how much would a server make during different pandemic shifts compared to a standard work day? Is this fair to the server? She shared that her research showed that Syracuse was hit harder by the epidemic in 1918 than other parts of the country because of decisions made by local leaders. Speaking as a hypothetical restaurant owner, she said she would survey each table of customers, as well as provide an online survey, to get feedback on her safety protocols and ensure everyone felt safe. She would also offer a virtual walk-through of her restaurant to show the safety protocols in place for staff and customers so everyone felt reassured before arriving.  
Syracuse Latin seventh grader Giovanni Fletcher said he would require all customers to call ahead before coming to the restaurant, and would require masks and gloves for customers, which would be provided if they do not have them when they arrive. He noted that he would also require gloves if someone leaves their table to prevent them from contaminating shared services. Giovanni shared a letter he wrote to Governor Cuomo as a business owner, expressing the desire to open his restaurant while keeping customers and employees safe. In it, he walked the Governor through the protocols he would take. “I feel it is our responsibility to provide service to our customers, especially during these difficult times,” he wrote. “If successful, I hope our plans can be used to help other restaurants and businesses open in the near future.”
What a great opportunity for these scholars to become civic ready and make real world connections!