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Russell Elementary Students Learn While Creating Proposal for Parking Lot

Russell students ask questions while meeting with engineers to discuss the project.

Math students survey parents, meet with experts, take measurements

When new Principal Dr. Paul Alvord came to Russell Elementary School this year, he noticed a problem; the current parking lot situation was not very conducive to the needs of the school. He decided to turn this problem into a learning experience and asked the fourth grade math students to study the parking lot and make a recommendation on how to improve it.

Catherine LaPosha, fourth grade math teacher, said her students were ready and eager to take on the project. LaPosha and Alvord both saw many benefits in the project for the students.

“I thought it was a great idea when Dr. Alvord approached me and asked if fourth grade math students would be interested in taking on the project,” said LaPosha. “He expected we would do some measurements, look at some aerial photos, and maybe do a few math problems. He said we could take it as far as I wanted to take it.”

La Posha and her students ran with idea. They started by brainstorming ideas about how to make the parking lot better. Then they created a survey to send to parents. The survey asked if parents thought the parking lot was large enough for dismissal and special events. The survey also asked parents to share their thoughts about the parking lot.

Students met with engineers to discuss the project.

Students also surveyed the parking lot and took measurements of the current lot. They measured the size of the current lot and the number of spaces along the building and spaces in the middle of the lot. Students then compiled the data. They learned that 88 percent of parents surveyed thought the parking lot was not large enough for dismissal and 100 percent thought the parking lot was not large enough for special events.

Students said the parents’ comments varied but there was a general concern for student safety and frustration at the lack of parking.

The next step in the project was for the students to meet with some local experts to help learn about how parking lots are constructed. Mr. Bradfield, the city planner for the City of Hazelwood, and Ms. Crimmins, a geographic information systems specialist, met with the students to discuss the parking lot. Crimmins brought an aerial map of the parking lot to help students have a better understanding of what the parking lot looks like.

Students collected data from surveys to parents.

Students learned parking spaces should be 9 feet wide by 19 feet deep. They learned about the actual process of building a parking lot, and the rules and regulations associated with building a parking lot. LaPosha said once the students compiled their research they worked together to create a new parking lot proposal to present to Dr. Alvord.

“The students learned how writing a proposal is different than writing a narrative,” said LaPosha. “They learned what kind of words to use or not use for professional writing.”

Paige Moore, fourth grade student, said they learned that a proposal has to be factual. “We learned that when you write a proposal it has to be full of facts,” said Moore. “There aren’t any questions or explanations in a proposal. Our proposal said we could double the parking spaces and have a total of 76 in our parking lot.”

The students said they enjoyed the project and learning the different steps of the project. “It was really fun to learn the process of how parking lots are made,” said Esther Homes. “I used to think it was just concrete but now I know that there is a lot of work and effort that goes into it. We also learned a lot of ‘grown-up’ words like egress and ingress. Egress is where you get out of the parking lot and ingress is where you get into the parking lot.”

LaPosha said she was very impressed with the work of her students. “I was most impressed with their problem solving skills and their ability to think through the situation and anticipate possible problems with their beginning proposals,” she said.

She said the project will be a great benefit to her students as they move forward. “My students learned how to work through a long-term project, set up a research based project, collect and use data, write and informational piece of literature. They also learned new vocabulary words. They now have a firsthand idea of how city government planning operates.”

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