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Local students work to solve real-world problems

Krystle Wagner • Jul 22, 2015 at 12:26 PM

The high school juniors and seniors from schools within the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District are working with the businesses and organizations for the futurePREP’d program called IChallengeU.

Jason Pasatta, development director for career and technical education for the OAISD, said in a press release that the program teaches students college and career-readiness skills that are “essential for future success.”

“Our local employers are not only telling us what skills they require for in-demand jobs, but are taking an active role in helping our students develop those skills,” he said.

Students from Grand Haven, Allendale, Coopersville, Hamilton, Holland, Holland Christian, Hudsonville, Jenison, Saugatuck, West Ottawa, Zeeland East and Zeeland West high schools have formed 12 teams. They are working alongside businesses and organizations such as Grand Valley State University’s Meijer Campus in Holland, Haworth inc., the City of Holland and Holland Museum.

For the second year, Grand Haven High School teacher Dennis Striegle is participating in the program. His team is working with Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital, and they’ve been tasked with finding a way to enhance a patient’s stay by making changes to food and nutritional services.

Through the process, students put themselves in the position of a patient by ordering and receiving food. The group also interviewed patients and reviewed surveys to better learn what types of improvements they should look into suggesting.

Students dedicate about eight hours on site, and they also spend time at home researching and working together. Watching students become passionate and involved in the project has been impressive, Striegle said.

Students are also learning more about investigation and collaboration.

“It’s very much a team learning approach with real-life scenarios,” Striegle said.

Grand Haven High School student Hannah Kenny said the moment the project became real for her was when they met a patient and learned about his experiences and how food has impacted it.

Kenny, 17, said she first got involved for the opportunity to create solutions and to have an impact in the community.

“It’s liberating to know my ideas matter and I have a voice,” she said.

Instructors are also getting hands-on experience with project-based learning and finding ways they can use it in their own classrooms in the coming year.

Striegle said he wanted to get involved again because project-based learning is challenging and it’s “out of the box teaching.” It gives students the control of the learning process, and it promotes authentic learning.

Striegle said he also wanted to get involved because it offers the opportunity to be a mentor and coach.

With the program drawing to a close, Kenny said she learned to have patience with her self and others, and to be supportive and encouraging of new ideas.

On Friday, the 12 teams presented their final solutions to a panel of judges.

As teams made their preparations, Striegle said that all students walk away winners because of the skills and lessons they learned during the experience.

“All the kids grow,” he said. “All the kids win.”

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