By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
Taking aim at injustices that divide the globe and imperil certain population groups, Peebles Elementary School fifth-graders presented action plans to address complex problems.
The school’s annual Fifth-Grade Exhibition served as the culminating activity for students’ journey through the Primary Years Program, the elementary component of the International Baccalaureate system.
Students concluded their yearlong projects Wednesday with a project showcase, where parents, teachers and peers listened to oral presentations and posed questions of the young researchers.
Topics ranged from endangered species to drug abuse, human rights, deadly diseases, poverty, water shortage and a host of other issues that vary greatly around the world.
Alyssa Folger studied child rights, explaining that children in certain families and in certain cultures endure abuse ranging from physical assault to child labor practices.
She said children around the world struggle to battle for their rights and often become trapped fearful of seeking help and confused by abusers’ claiming they deserve poor treatment.
Folger said she and a friend who studied deadly diseases teamed up to collect 54,000 aluminum can tabs to donate to the Ronald McDonald House in Temple, which shelters families seeking care at nearby Scott & White Hospital.
“I’m a child and I wanted kids to have rights like me,” Folger said. “I have great parents, great friends and a great school.”
She showed a picture of a baby with bruises.
“Babies shouldn’t be treated that way,” she said.
Malia Austin studied deadly diseases and helped to collect the aluminum tabs for charity.
“I wanted to make sure people try to prevent deadly diseases,” Austin said. “I want to bring the percentage (of people with incurable diseases) down to the least that we can.”
Austin studied factors in several diseases from influenza to Alzheimer’s, cholera, malaria and others.
“I learned that people’s perspectives change,” she said, explaining that those without diseases tend to think little about their chances of contracting illness, while those living with disease tend to do the things they always wanted to try.
Science teacher Sebrenia Rangel, one of the many teachers who helped guide students through their work, said the exhibition works to teach not only knowledge, but also important skills.
“They take all year and they learn to manage their time and conduct valid research,” Rangel said. “They choose a topic that interests them and that makes them go deeper and hopefully they will continue their action.”
Math teacher Carmen Berestecky also worked to advise students in their projects and praised the merits of exhibition.
Many of this year’s fifth-graders experienced PYP at Peebles since pre-kindergarten or kindergarten and teachers said their knowledge shows.
“The students have grasped this,” Berestecky said. “Their questions are insightful, and there’s a direct link to PYP. They have bought into it. You can see their inquiring skills and research skills and the character it instills.”
The projects require students to work along the central idea that “Divides in the world are great,” and to come up with an action plan to address their chosen issue.
“I want to make sure people are cautious and try to prevent diseases,” Austin said of her deadly diseases project.
“I think it tells people we need to help in this world,” said Folger of the exhibition, “or it will get worse.”