Social Enterprise Exhibition 2019

Mesa Students Bridge the Gap Between Theory and Practice to Design Workable Solutions to Global Issues
Have you ever asked yourself, “what is my role as a Global Citizen?” It’s a question that may not cross your mind too often, but students at Mesa Middle School spent two semesters answering it.

Mesa Middle School Professional Learning Specialist Mary Murphy created the Innovation and Design: Social Enterprise pilot elective course where seventh and eighth-grade entrepreneurs tackled global and local community challenges. Students designed working prototypes after investigating issues, developing empathy for the affected communities, gathering field research, testing a prototype, and collecting data during the testing period.

“This is an important class for middle school students to take because it empowers them to be problem solvers, think creatively about solutions, and tap into their ingenuity by utilizing the design thinking process which promotes empathy, prototyping based on ideas and the iteration of a prototype through testing,” said Murphy. “It equips students with the skills, people, and resources to implement a solution rather than suggest ideas to solve a problem.”

Presented at Mesa Middle School on Thursday, May 9, the Social Enterprise Exhibition featured visionaries, change-makers, and the culmination of eight months of hard work. Parents and families of the students munched on appetizers before Murphy introduced the unifying goal of the class and invited the audience to attend the various student presentations.

Two eighth-grade students, Hayden Gaal (“Supporting Those Who Support Us”) and Abi Cassidy (“It’s OK to Not Be OK”), tackled a problem they had observed in their families: PTSD. The pair developed prototype mobile apps that provided specialized help and specific resources for veterans in crisis; though Abi commented that making an app “was a lot harder than [she] thought it was going to be.” Hayden incorporated his collaboration with medical care and mental health professionals who worked with veterans.

“My childhood dream was to be in the military,” said Hayden. “I wanted to do something for people struggling.”

Anna Christensen On the open Commons under stage lights, eighth-grader Anna Christensen opened her presentation “Cows Cry Too” with the simple assertion that “one person can make a difference,” and that she could make a difference by voicing her message. During her research into conventional dairy farm cruelty, Anna became committed to divesting from dairy and encouraging others to do the same. She hopes to share her message during the next TEDx Colorado Springs conference.

After noticing the Principal’s inability to visit a teacher’s classroom more than once a year, eighth-grader Jacob Gold developed a prototype student survey that would aid administrators in evaluating teachers. He explained in his presentation “Seeking Student Input in Their Own Education” that by providing students with a platform to voice their experiences and observations of teachers frankly, the survey uncovered positive feedback to administrators on what occurred outside a single classroom visit. Jacob worked closely with Mesa Principal Tony Jackowski and other administrators to create the survey.

Tyler Oakley Tyler Oakley, an avid eighth-grade baseball player, was concerned about teen obesity. His prototype was an alternative sports drink that would provide a healthier option to popular manufactured drinks, asking his audience to “Put Down the Red Bull.” Blending together electrolytes, B-vitamins, and fruit, Tyler tested his product among other students and adjusted the taste and color according to their feedback.

Two other eighth-graders, Sydnie Crim and Delaney Vencill, also focused on an issue affecting teens globally in their presentation “The Looking Glass: A Deeper Perspective into Human Trafficking.”

“Because of the social media lawsuits, it’s a lot more visible. We know it affects teens ages 12-15,” said Sydnie.“Colorado has a lot of trafficking going through because of I-25 and I-70.”

The prototype the two students developed was a curriculum for health classes that educated teens on the risk of trafficking. Sydnie and Delaney received great feedback from their test class and want to expand the entire curriculum to each health class and bring in an interactive Virtual Reality component.

Other project presentations featured:
  • Ammon Gaynor, eighth grade - “Do You Want Input?”
  • Blake Tidemann, eighth grade - "What Would You Say to Your Teacher?"
  • Caity Clancy, eighth grade - "Beyond Project Unify"
  • Jesse Richardson, seventh grade - "When Disaster Strikes"
  • JJ Marlow, seventh grade - "Tomorrow Space"
  • Kayleb Hunter, eighth grade - "We All Agree, Save the Sea"
  • Lillie Lyons, eighth grade - "The Beach is Not a Trash Can!"
  • Mia Radford, eighth grade - "Traveling? Be Aware of Malaria?"
  • Rachel Bird, seventh grade - "Is Our Society Sinking or Swimming?"
  • Tyler Church, eighth grade - "Protect Our Trails"
  • Tytan Turnbaugh, eighth grade - "Homeless in Douglas County"
Murphy was most impressed with how the students became passionate about addressing issues through their prototype, and enthusiasm that continued after receiving feedback and affirmation on their design.

"The students level of intensity and passion increased because of their empathetic understanding and insight into people's lives or the impact of the issue was having on the affected population," said Murphy.

No matter what their futures hold, Murphy’s enterprising students are preparing for their future careers by gaining the confidence in their ability to take risks, fail but persevere through the next iteration of an idea, identify a problem, generate a solution and give back to society.

Innovation and Design: Social Enterprise will be available to both seventh and eighth-grade students at Mesa Middle School in the 2019/2020 school year.
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