1. What is your problem of practice in implementing a blended learning environment?
Rosspoint Elementary School is located in rural Harlan, Kentucky and is a Title 1 district which ranks in the highest ten percent of all US counties in the prevalence of poverty. The devastating decline of the coal industry has created economic despair. Many students live in unemployed families or with an absentee father whose is working away from home. In addition, families continue to migrate for work, and student population is down. Many community businesses have closed. Covid 19 has not been a friend to an already struggling area. The historic generational poverty stigma, along with the portrayal of “Bloody Harlan” in popular culture through songs like You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive and the television show Justified, contribute to a negative mindset within and outside the community. Harlan is rich in cultural history but a brain drain community as some of our brightest, talented, and motivated students leave the area for college and economic opportunities. Thus, in addition to meeting state curriculum goals, my instructional practices seek to fight self-esteem issues, motivation for productivity of in our area, and seek solutions for losing our young citizens to more economically thriving towns. I want my students to develop pride in their community of Harlan County. Sewing and virtual learning can address these issues.
2. What strategy will you implement this year to address the problem?
During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, sixth graders participated in ARI Learning Innovative Grants designed to create self pride in the place identity of Harlan County and its Coal Mining history. Then they implemented cutting edge technology to produce a virtual field trip. You couldn’t have imagine the feedback and pride from the student body and community after viewing the finished “Lynch Virtual Field Trip.” Students showed interest in wanting to continue and expand their knowledge of Harlan history. Having interacted and shared their learning with family members, students are developing such pride in their culture. Many have been gardening with grandparents this summer and have said they would like to make masks related to our Pandemic safety needs. So I want to build on their interests and ideas of promoting our cultural heritage and pride in our community by teaching students to sew.
Sewing showcases our community heritage. It is also provides a skill that can be used by individuals to create economic independence. I want teach students to sew! By purchasing portable machines, students will have the opportunity to practice to their hearts content at home. I am creating an instruction guide and simple video link to provide guidance for our first task: a simple mask. Utilizing virtual learning, students and I can ZOOM in small groups for our beginning project. Even when we return to school, I want this to be an experience where they learn from technological means. My husband has used YouTube to be able to do any number of things. The students will create a mask for themselves and masks to donate. Our second project will be to sew lap quilts for veterans. Again, apart from learning the sewing, students are contributing to their community. They will showcase this on our school Facebook page. Our third project will be to sew period clothing from history for a living history presentation. I will assign each student a historical figure who they will research during the schoolyear. This detailed inquiry will help them create a character scenario. For example, Silas Harlan is a Revolutionary War hero for whom Harlan County is named. One student will assume his role, sew period clothing for him, and play his role in an outdoor “Living History Day” at our school. Finally, students will create a video clip of their “Living History” character in action to digitally upload on a class performance video on our school website.
3. What resources and personnel do you need to implement your strategy?
Students will need sewing machines and accessories to learn the art of sewing. The Harlan County Extension office has generously promised to visit our classroom regularly after Covid 19 restrictions are lifted and work with my students and I to complete our period clothing. In addition, we have access to iPads to digitized images of document the stages of our growth as sewing learners. Using primary sources, artifacts, and classroom research activities, students will inquire into and explore early Harlan County history. Students have access to Chromebooks for background information. They will create a background portfolio to use to design their character into a living history persona. In the spring, all students will outfit themselves in their period clothing, assume the role of their historical character, and perform live on a “Living History Day” at our school.
4. What research question will guide your study of this innovation?
What ways can innovative technology contribute to Harlan County school children overcoming the stigma of living in a poverty area, build personal self-esteem and pride in community, learn to sew and create clothing, and allow inquiry and research to develop “living history” roles.?
5. What outcomes will prove that your innovation has succeeded?
The successful completion of masks, quilts, and period clothing! Students will have developed a skill they can use on their own to provide some economic support. The culminating showcasing of period clothing and performances as historical individuals at our “Living History Day” in which the whole school and community will participate connects with others, and students will feel pride in their cultural heritage. They will recognize that they are capable of utilizing innovation technology personally and that they can use technology to overcome stereotypes and showcase their beautiful Harlan County and the history that exists there.
6. How will you measure those outcomes?
Observations of student self esteem, community input, completion of sewing projects, successful “Living History Day”
7. How can you be sure that any positive outcomes on these measures are actually due to your innovation and not something else?
With innovative technology and inquiry standards in mind, I wanted a project that my students could put their hearts into, develop a valuable skill, and have a technological learning opportunity with others. I have designed the unit related to the history and culture of Harlan County so as to provoke inquiry, develop a sense of pride in community history, implement the rigorous use of technology, and provide a lifelong economic skill. Using hands on aspects of this inquiry will stimulate interest and makes history come alive. Students “get into” a study that is fun and engaging in which they create products and a live performance. Their engagement promotes rigorous investigation which in turn prepares them for sustained research and investigation in high school, college and careers.