Fifth-graders put thought into heavy topics


Kieran Thornhill studies a chart on the vanishing Amur leopard.

Photos by Kim Koos and Jane Hannauer | Kendal Publicity Plugs Ryan Leyva, Anna Fritz, Maggie Shuck, and Kaleb Taylor talk about their findings related to child abuse. MarChe Robinson, Maddie Krueck, Diamond Herron, Emerson Freas, and Jacques Missire are shown by their poster on school blueprints.

Matters of both local and global significance were presented by 13 groups of graduating fifth-graders at Prospect Elementary School at the end of the year.

They focused on the “ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values, and the ways to express our creativity and our appreciation of the aesthetic.”

One group, led by teacher Joy Harrison, presented on the sensitive topic of child abuse, reading “Waiting for Normal” by Leslie Connor.

Students learned important facts and statistics from www.childhelp.org, interviewed police officer Billie Neadham, and talked with school counselor Ben Eiskamp for perspective from an adult who works with children who have experienced abuse.

The second group, led by teacher Lauri Brua, researched the quickly-disappearing Amur leopard, reading “The Last Leopard” by Lauren St. John and learning how poaching has decimated the population.

However, there is one Amur leopard, named Dara, at the Cleveland Zoo. Students emailed questions about Dara to Travis Vineyard, the cat’s handler, and after reading his answers chose to reenact the “interview.”

Teacher Robin Diedrick’s group investigated 21st century schools, reading books about school design and visiting both the Lewis Center on the Oberlin College campus and the National Hall of Fame Middle School in Akron.

The latter school was not designed by students, but drew interest among local fifth-graders because it is an ecologically-friendly building with spaces for easy collaboration, outdoor learning areas, student food gardens, comfortable furniture, colorful spaces, and lots of windows for natural light.

It was clear from other topics chosen by the Prospect fifth graders — such as sports safety, civil rights, disabilities, and youth inventions that shape the way we live — that these students have given serious thought to serious problems, and want to be part of the solutions.

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