Elementary Students Get Hands-On Learning with Irises
Elementary Students Get Hands-On Learning with Irises
Betsy Bailey
Monday, September 10, 2018

Our teachers are the ones who are ensuring hands-on learning is taking place at each of our campuses on a daily basis. Take a moment and read what Ms. Kristi Smith, McRae STEM facilitator, has to say about McRae Elementary School’s most recent project that is enhancing creativity, horticulture knowledge, and many other aspects of the STEM curriculum.

Projects Take Passion, Planning and Partners

For any project to be beautifully executed, it takes passion, planning and partners! September 5, 2018 marks the third year McRae Elementary from the Searcy Public School District has partnered with the White County Iris Society (WCIS) to plant and care for irises. During the first year, the WCIS partnered with two classes, one from McRae and another from Westside totaling 47 students. Last year, they partnered with 450 students across several school districts in White County to plant irises. This year the WCIS is planting irises with all third graders at McRae and all second graders at Westside Elementary totaling 240 students. They may possibly do the same with 60 students from Harding Academy.

You might think, okay so students are planting irises. How hard can that be? Don’t feel bad for thinking that because I felt the same way until...I didn’t. You see for every student there has to be an iris, and each iris has to be labeled with its specific name. Then, color pictures of each iris have to be printed, laminated, cut out and stapled to craft sticks. Then, the irises and picture cards are sorted and placed on tables outside for the students to choose the perfect iris for them. Our district delivers tables and potting mix which has to be ordered before school starts and sets them up in the shade on the blacktop the morning of planting.

And, we can’t forget the pots. This year we tried something new. Our science curriculum includes ways to help our world by taking better care of it. One way we can do that is to recycle. Parents and businesses saved and delivered over 175 gallon milk and distilled water jugs to the school. Teachers (and their husbands) cut the jugs and drilled holes in the bottoms for drainage. Then, the art teacher planned a week where third graders decorated their jugs using permanent markers. Our PTO president, Misty Mullins cut every third graders’ name out of vinyl and put them on the jugs. Then, each jug was sprayed with clear acrylic for plastic to hopefully preserve the students’ artwork on the jugs.

During the summer, our maintenance department also cleared flower beds along the south and east sides of our gym, and members from Harding University’s engineering department along with other Harding student volunteers are currently making wooden tiers that will be placed in the cleared flowerbeds to make watering the irises easier.

Teachers will take their students out to water their irises twice weekly while it’s still hot and then once weekly as it begins to cool down. Students will be documenting their efforts in caring for their irises over time through assignments in Google Classroom. They will also be recording changes in their irises throughout the school year. The hope is for us to be able to enter many of the irises in the White County Iris Society Iris Show that happens each year in the spring in downtown Searcy, Arkansas.

We are exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to work with the White County Iris Society. This experience has made me love irises, and I previously believed I couldn’t grow anything. So educators, seize any moment you have to partner with passionate people to help bring real-life learning to your campuses. It’s truly life changing.