By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Some students at Ward Stewart Elementary are combining their love for their favorite sports team — the Mississippi State Bulldogs — with geography and research.
A group of third graders in the school’s gifted program, known as PEAK, are using the college football season to learn more about the southeastern United States.
“Since we’re in a town with an S.E.C. school, it is something they’re familiar with,” teacher Liz Phillips said.
Each week, they take a look at the game schedule for all the S.E.C. schools. Using their atlas, the students will learn more about the opposing teams, where the teams will play and how much distance the visiting team will have to travel. Then, they will research each team including their ranking, if they have any injured players and how they’ve preformed throughout the season so far. Armed with this information, the students will then make their predictions on which teams will win that week’s games.
“On Monday, we check their predictions, look up the results and chart how many predictions they got correct,” teacher Jennifer Spradling said.
So far, only one of the 100 students has gotten all of their predictions correct, but the season is just getting started.
The class is also incorporating a fun football-themed atlas relay. Each team’s “quarter back” is given a card with a location on it and they have to run to the atlas, write down that location’s coordinates. Then, they run back to their “running back” and hand off the coordinates, which the running back will then use to find the city. And of course, one student on each team will act as a coach to help out their teammate, as needed.
“It’s such a good way to build their atlas skills, practice teamwork and get them up and moving,” teacher Tammy Gammill said.
Next week, the students at Ward Stewart will be teaming up with MSU athletes on a canned food drive. MSU will compete against all the other S.E.C. schools to see which can collect the most, but the university will have a little help from the local elementary school.
The PEAK students will be in charge of counting the cans collected from each classroom and charting their progress each day. The charts will be on display in the cafeteria and will help encourage some friendly competition between classes. The winning class will get the chance to spend some time with a few MSU athletes. Last year, the wining class collected over 200 cans to win the prize.
“It’s great for them to see that all their hard work goes to help needy families,” Spradling said. “We reflect as a class on how it helps the community, how it makes them feel to do something good, and what it means to them to see that kids can make a difference.”