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City schools exhibit ingenuity at learning exhibition
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Martinsville High School students Travis Maxey (from left), Andrew Mize and Austin White show off a project based on the book”The Kite Runner.” The book tells of a game played in Afghanistan called kite running. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

At the learning exhibition Monday, Martinsville High School senior Emmye Myers wore a head scarf and black, loose-fitting clothing, covering everything but her hands and part of her face.

Emmye answered questions about what it was like to portray an Afghani woman at MHS as part of an AP English class project involving reading “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini and studying Afghanistan and how various aspects of that culture relate to America’s.

“It was very nerve-wracking,” Emmye said of dressing and acting like an Afghani woman while interacting with other students at MHS. The etiquette included not talking with or having eye contact with males.

Some of the comments students made were disrespectful, she said. For instance, she was asked if she was carrying a bomb, or “Why are you doing this?”

She was told, “You look funny,” she said.

The experience has changed her perspective on Afghan culture and helped her empathize with Afghani females, she said. She added that after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, she was frightened of Muslims. “I’m not frightened anymore,” she said. “It (the project) helps me to know what they are going through.”

AP (Advanced Placement) English teacher Mary Ann Jennings said one aspect of the project involves thinking about what students have a passion for, such as a possible career, and comparing and contrasting that in the United States and Afghanistan. For example, some students interested in health care learned that much of the Afghan population lacks access to health care, she said.

MHS senior Travis Maxey said he learned about the history of kites and the sport of kite running. According to, kite flying is a major pastime during winter in Afghanistan, with major tournaments held.

According to Travis and two websites, in many countries, the lines of kite string are coated with ground glass and glue, and the goal is to wrap your kite string around an opponent’s so as to cut it. Everyone runs to capture defeated kites, and the last kite flying is the winner.

On a broader scale, Travis said the project has helped him learn about the people, poverty and other difficulties in Afghanistan “instead of just seeing them on the news as bad people.”

Among the many other problem-based learning projects exhibited at MHS were nearly 50 of the more than 200 drawings of bulldogs by students in Randy Clay’s Art I classes. The project involved students assuming the role of an advertising agency and designing an original bulldog mascot that could be used on T-shirts, letter jackets, banners, letterheads, posters, bumper stickers, etc. Each student did a line drawing, one using dots (called stippling) and a color version, Clay said.

“It was fun,” said 10th-grader Ryland Gayle. In stippling, he said, few dots are used to create light areas and many dots, dark areas.

Diane Richardson’s French 3 students filmed and edited music videos using top 40 French songs, translated the lyrics, and lip-synched the lyrics on video. The videos were filmed on campus, at students’ homes or other places in the community, she said.

Student Robert Flynn said his group made a video to the song “Je Cours” (or I Run) by rapper Stromae, about running from the “jungle” of life and living for now.

Isabel Griffin, a junior, and her group made a video about a love song. The process, Isabel said, “really helped me partner up better.” She added that sometimes she’s hard-headed.

Richardson’s French I students designed and made miniature homes and furniture, and described them.

Tenth-graders Jassmyn Shelton and Steffany Ortiz said, in the process, they learned some vocabulary words as well as used their creativity in designing the homes.

World History 1 teacher Devon Wall’s students did a Happy Un-Birthday Party (as in “Alice in Wonderland”) for mythological and historical figures in which they created a box about the person and a present.

Ninth-grader Chandni Patel’s gift to Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love) was a golden apple, which was involved in one of the legends about her. Chandni said she painted several water-color pictures related to Aphrodite on the box.

“The projects are awesome,” parent Arlana Smith said of the learning exhibits at MHS.

The other three schools in the division also had learning exhibits Monday — as part of Martinsville City Public Schools’ first divisionwide Exhibition of Student Learning.

At Patrick Henry Elementary, Linda Littlejohn’s kindergarten students made castles out of three-dimensional trash or recyclable items such as cereal boxes, soda bottles, toilet tissue rolls and other containers, learning shapes in the process.

“It’s a Disney World castle,” kindergartner Daisia Salda said of her group’s creation. The shapes included cylinders, squares and rectangles, she added.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Shaun Salda, Daisia’s dad, said of the project. “They learned new shapes and how to get along with other students.”

First-graders Haylee McBride and Noah Young explained parts of the forest habitat in Virginia project students did in teacher Cindy Nease’s class. It had a black bear skin, grouse and turkey feathers, a rattlesnake skin (all provided by Nease’s husband Bill, a hunter), as well as pine cones and drawings of other animals and trees and a cave.

Donna Plaster divided her fourth-grade students into groups to learn about the five regions of Virginia, including landforms, major cities, major waterways, products and industry, and tourist attractions. Students Jahnavia Hairston and Michael Walker told various facts they learned about the Coastal Plain, and they said they had fun typing and working in groups.

Ama Waller’s fifth-grade students did a project on heroes, chose and interviewed local heroes, made comic strips, envisioned themselves as super-heroes, designed costumes and wrote papers, she said.

Hunter Scott said he chose his grandfather Mike Thornton, a veteran and “a good influence on me,” as his local hero. Finley Underwood, who is in another fifth-grade class, said he chose Scott Haywood, who is helping teach him about soccer.

Nina Scott, Hunter’s mom, said the project helped students appreciate local heroes as well as use their imaginations.

Principal Zeb Talley praised problem-based learning for its hands-on, practical applications.


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