Rural Schools Partnership News

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A typical day for students in Ms. Ramsey Bryant's class: knee deep in place-based learning and problem-solving, collaboration, observation, and inquiry.

An inspiring visit to Ms. Ramsey Bryant's Classroom

October 10, 2017

By Julie Leeth

More like a summer Ozarks day with temperatures pushing 85 degrees, I arrived at John Thomas School of Discovery, a STEM school, located in Nixa, Missouri, early this October. Upon my arrival, I was greeted and escorted by Matthew Price, a most personable and talkative sixth grader, we arrived at Hannah Ramsey Bryant’s classroom.

Ms. Ramsey Bryant was a member of the Ozarks Teacher Corps in 2014-15. She participated in a year-long internship through Missouri State University and Nixa as a part of her student teaching experience. Hannah is now in her second year of teaching at John Thomas School of Discovery in Nixa.

During my visit, I experienced a "typical day" with Hannah's engaged students. First, they lined up to go to the greenhouse to make observations on soil tests as well as to check on raised garden plots filled with a variety of veggies. Levi and Matthew explained to me that they had hit a rough spot with their soil experiment when the water source didn’t reach their plants. Undaunted by the set back, they explained their soil concoction to me. They're confident that they have a winning mix of fish fertilizer, perlite plant nutrient, limestone and topsoil. Their next attempt at lettuce should prove productive!

At the raised gardens, one plot of radishes is flourishing. The duo of Sidney and Kelsey tell me they are pleased with the plants, but indicate that they need to do some serious weeding and thinning in order to give the radishes the best shot possible. Meanwhile, Gavin, Dex and Audrey are tending to end of the season tomatoes that they have determined have passed their prime! Time to pull the plug on this bed!

How did these students end up in such a wonderful "classroom"? Hannah received two grants during the process of building the greenhouse through the Rural Schools Partnership conservation program. One of the grants helped to winterize and establish drainage for the growing projects.

Back in the classroom, a discussion ensued about a vacant lot across the street that the school district has purchased. These sixth graders have been given the opportunity to devise a plan to develop the area for some type of community park or gathering spot. They tossed around a playground, butterfly park and an equestrian center! These young planners and scientists are engaged in the beginning of an analysis of the project, producing lists of wants and needs to start the conversation.

My entire visit to Ms. Ramsey Bryant's class took place in the course of about 45 minutes. Hannah’s class was knee deep in place-based learning and fully engaged in problem-solving, collaboration, observation, inquiry and even disagreement -- and all of it was taking place in an atmosphere of mutual respect, trust, civility and empowerment.

I walked out of the school feeling renewed and invigorated knowing that the future is in the hands of competent teachers and bright young people who are learning and using skills that most adults may have forgotten. There are lessons to be learned.

Julie Leeth serves as Education Liaison for the Rural Schools Collaborative, Rural Schools Partnership, and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. She is coordinator for the RSC Missouri Ozarks Hub and manages the RSC Grants in Place program. Julie is the former Executive Vice President for the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, where she coordinated the Foundation’s nationally recognized Rural Schools Partnership and oversaw relationships with more than 400 nonprofit agencies. Julie also specializes in building long-term assets for rural communities through the establishment of education foundations and school-related funds. This is a special passion for her after spending 30 years as a teacher and administrator in the Springfield Public Schools, where she received a national award for her support of freedom of speech while serving as principal at Springfield’s Hillcrest High School. Her various public education roles have included teacher, administrator, and assistant superintendent.

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