Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fearlessly Flying Outside Of The Library Box

How Fearless Changed Everything

In 2012, I learned about the book Fearless by Eric Blehm. The book shares about the life of Adam Brown, a Hot Springs resident and Lake Hamilton High School graduate. Brown overcame great obstacles to become a Navy SEAL. He gave his life while serving our country in 2010. Our 8th-grade English teachers asked me to read the book as part of their Common Core unit, "It Happened in the City". Students had been defining hero and who might be a hero. 

Rather than simply conducting a traditional book talk, we decided to present the book as a military briefing. LHS Library Assistant Ray Borel and I were serving in the Arkansas Army National Guard at the time, so we decided to but on our uniforms to make the session more realistic to students. The response was overwhelmingly positive from both students and teachers. The program actually inspired a series of similar collaborations in grades 8-12 that continue to evolve at our school 4 years later.

The Fearless collaboration changes each year. To illustrate this, I would like to share the evolution of the program in 2016.

Fearless Year 5 Changes

Day 1

The first day featured a book talk in the form of a military briefing. Mr. Ray Borel has presented this session since we started it.

He shares military information and acronyms mentioned in the book. In addition, he reminds learners about the importance of recognizing the American flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem. Please, take a moment to view my Facebook Live video excerpt below.

Day 2

Our second day has many activities for learners to experience. We have stations set up around the library to immerse the students in the content:

Station 1- Video of a Veteran's Day speech by President Ronald Reagan.

Station 2- Military gear station that allowed learners to try on various field gear.

Station 3- Music video of "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning" by Alan Jackson

Station 4- Thank you card area that allowed students to write to Veterans.

Station 5- Video about Adam Borel and his experiences in the Arkansas Army National Guard

Please, watch my Facebook Live walkthrough video below.

Day 3

Hot Springs Fire Department

Ray Borel suggested that we invite local agencies to bring military and emergency vehicles on the third day of the program. We knew this would help make the experiences of the first two days more real to our learners. We started contacting local agencies about a month prior to the event. We were able to get volunteers and vehicles from the Arkansas Army National Guard, Hot Springs Police Department, Hot Springs Fire Department, and Air Evac Life Team. We are grateful to all these agencies for participating and making it a great day for our students!

The ambulance from the Arkansas Army National Guard

The Hot Springs Police S.W.A.T. armored vehicle

Air Evac Life Team helicopter

We were also able to present art projects to members of the local Army National Guard that the students of Mr. Darrell Davis and Mrs. Cathy Pierce produced. These two pieces were created last year as part of the Arkansas Declaration of Learning. (I'll write more about this national project in the future.)

Arkansas Declaration of Learning art project presentation

The students loved the SWAT armored vehicle and the helicopter from the Air Evac Life Team. It was a perfect ending to this program.

Special thanks to Ray for suggesting the addition of the vehicles. Thanks to Kaitlyn Price for suggesting the thank you card station. Thank you to Peggy Schaeffer for working on the media and setup of the library each day. Special thanks to Mari Simmons (English teacher) and Meg Parker (English teacher)  for going on this journey with us each year. Thank you to Mr. Darin Landry (LHS Principal) and our entire administration for consistently encouraging us to think outside of the norm for our learners.

Take a look at our third day of activities in my Facebook Live video excerpt below:

Student Feedback

Mrs. Simmons created a Google Form to survey the students so we could learn more about what they liked and what improvements might be needed. Below are some highlights:

The video: It made me realize that there is a lot more to serving our country than what we realize.
(Thank you) cards: I get to "talk" to a veteran and tell them how much we appreciate them.
Military gear: They have to carry a lot of weight on their shoulders and eat food that is not necessarily "cooked"

It was cool and fun. It was a nice change. We got to learn how each machine works and what the people that use them do... it was a nice learning experience.

The video about the Twin Towers was really touching. The thank you card was fun and I think it will mean a lot to the people that will receive them. Both of the videos we watched meant a lot to me and they were really interesting. Last, it was really cool looking and learning about all the stuff the soldiers use.

The stations were very informational, and I appreciate the time and effort put into making them. I really took away from the stations to be thankful and be respectful, and it makes me feel good to be respectful and grateful.

Next Steps

After exploring this method of immersing students in content for 4 years, I still feel we have only just started to see the impact of this type of learning. It has been interesting to see upperclassmen come in the library when they see us wearing camouflage uniforms and exclaim "you guys are doing Fearless today! I remember that!" Many upperclassmen noticed the new parts of the program and wondered why we didn't include them when they were in 8th grade. It was good to see the older students still thought the program was special years later. This also allowed us to share with them that the event is in a constant state of improvement.

We will continue working to "fearlessly fly outside of the library box" to reach our learners in new ways. I can't wait to see what happens next!

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