Our View: Programs show hope for inspiration




In recent years, it has been argued that too much emphasis has been placed on standardized tests and college-track education, to the detriment of arts and vocational programs. We've heard complaints from teachers in some districts that they feel they are expected to simply teach students to recite facts. 


A diverse educational curriculum that expands rather than limits the imaginations and possibilities of today's youth is critical. But as we think about how our educational system must evolve, we are reminded that it is often the students themselves who ultimately determine the value of the education they receive. 


There is no teaching philosophy, no program, no curriculum that can take the place of a student who has caught the fire of inspiration. Spark a child's interest in something and he or she will devour every available bit of information needed to support their passion. Too often, students see no real connection between what is taught in the classroom and how it can be used to achieve their dreams. 


We have seen two fine examples of this recently at Columbus High School and in Starkville. 


In Columbus, five CHS students are working on a special project that makes the direct connection between the STEM curriculum our schools have been promoting for years now and how those skills are used in real life. 


The students -- David Alvarez, Hunter Brooks, Tori Savores, Amiyah Porter and sophomore Wynter Brooks call themselves the "SMART Kids," named for the Stormwater Management Research Team (SMART) grant the school received from the National Science Foundation to fund their program. 


Each Monday after school, the students explore area waterways, spending two hours taking water samples where they measure pH samples and collect data which they share with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. They've even built their own testing equipment. For these students, science is not confined to a classroom but experienced in a real-life setting. The experience has made STEM studies come alive and their interests in those classroom subjects has grown as they have seen it applied in a relevant way. 


Meanwhile, in Starkville, more than 50 middle-school and high-school students throughout the city have participated in Mississippi State's "Innovation Challenge," a competition where student entrepreneurs receive top-flight assistance in developing their own ideas for a new product or service -- everything from a solar-powered jacket to a drone system that can be used to deliver water in areas of famine. 


As it is in Columbus, the educational process has been reversed in a sense -- these programs start first with a goal or idea and is followed by acquiring the knowledge needed to make that idea a reality. This is education at its best -- knowledge not for knowledge sake, but as a means of fulfilling a dream. 


We applaud these efforts to empower our children by providing them opportunities to see education in its broadest and most relevant sense. And call for more student opportunities like these. 


As we continue to consider the role of education, it's important not to underestimate the power of inspiration.



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