Community problem solvers; Middle school students to address traffic flow situation

By Erika Pedroza | Published Wednesday, October 30, 2013

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Students at Bridgeport Middle School have decided that the traffic flow at their school during drop-off in the morning and pick-up in the afternoon is a nuisance.

“It takes 30 minutes to get here, and I only live a mile from the school,” said seventh-grader Bryson Morrow.

“It’s a mess,” added sixth-grader Kyler Holley. “There are cars going everywhere. We need something more efficient and safer.”

“We need to figure out a new route and system,” sixth grader Cassady Craddock said.

Problem Solvers

PROBLEM SOLVERS – The Community Problem Solving class at Bridgeport Middle School is working to resolve traffic flow issues at their school. The class includes seventh graders Bryson Morrow, Katelyn Lanfear and Bekah Powers; and sixth graders Haley Barton, Cassady Craddock, Samuel Davis, Halle Holbrook, Kyler Holley, Dalton Huya, Jadon Maddux, Jacob Marshall, Micah Phillips, Kirby Russell and Lane Whitsell. Their teacher is Paula Shepherd. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

A group of 14 students – 11 sixth graders and three seventh-graders – is working to devise just that in their Community Problem Solving class taught by Paula Shepherd, Bridgeport ISD advanced academics coordinator.

As part of the advanced-level elective course, students entered the Texas Future Problem Solving competition. The program requires students to identify an issue – local, state or national – and develop an action plan to address it. Then students are to implement that plan.

In the last couple of months, the team knocked out logistical tasks – researching options, dividing into committees (fundraising, reporting, photography, scrapbooking, public relations and research) and selecting an issue.

Through discussion among the class and surveys sent to staff, parents and classmates, the students narrowed a list of 78 ideas to five, then to two, before electing to work on traffic flow at their school.

“We had more ideas, but we felt like this would last longer,” said seventh-grader Katelyn Lanfear. “It would help not just our school but the elementary school, too, if we came up with a good enough plan.”

Sixth-grader Halle Holbrook added: “We felt like traffic flow would have the biggest impact.”

Thus was born OMITS – Our Mission Is Traffic-flow Safety. Under this “mission,” students strive to determine “how might they expedite drop-off and pick-up flow procedures at Bridgeport Middle School.”

“Expedite is the key word,” said sixth-grader Lane Whitsell. “We want to make traffic flow faster so that kids can get in and out of here faster.”

“And safer,” added sixth-grader Sammy Davis.

After choosing an issue, the group focused on collecting data to define it.

During drop-off and pick-up last Thursday, students stood outside and counted the number of cars that drove through in five-minute intervals.

“We also measure how long it takes us to go through the line in our parents’ cars,” said sixth-grader Kirby Russell.

Students plan to collect additional data by visiting with police officers and personnel at the bus barn.

The class will use this data, their problem-solving skills and creativity to devise their plan of action. Although they are contemplating a couple of ideas, students plan to thoroughly sift through the information gathered before proceeding.

All of their progress will be documented in a rigidly-structured six-page paper, scrapbook and public service announcement, which will be submitted in February to be judged. Top entries advance to the state and national level.

“We create our plan, state our underlying problem, summarize why we picked this and what we plan to change,” Craddock said. “While doing this we’ve focused on flexibility, fluency, originality and creativity.”

And problem-solving, which was what drew many students to the class.

“I chose this class because if I can’t figure out a way to do something, I figure out a new way,” Holbrook said. “This class teaches that.”

The students are also learning the importance of teamwork. In the early phases of the project, the bulk of the work has fallen on the research, public relations, photography and reporting committees. Although public relations, photography and reporting will remain busy throughout, research will taper off. But tasks for the scrapbook and fundraising kids will pick up.

“I’m on fundraising, and right now we don’t have a lot to do,” Davis said. “So we work with some of the other groups. We helped the PR people with what they say when they call the newspaper. Once we decide what we’re going to do to fix the problem, we’ll plan fundraisers to pay for cones, paints or whatever we need. Maybe we’ll do a lemonade stand or bake sale.”

Even in the early stages of the project, the team, consisting of Morrow, Lanfear and Bekah Powers, seventh graders; and sixth graders Holley, Holbrook, Whitsell, Davis, Russell, Craddock, Dalton Huya, Haley Barton, Jadon Maddux, Jacob Marshall and Micah Phillips, is excited to break new ground.

“We’re the first students from Bridgeport Middle School to ever do this,” Craddock said. “I think that’s kind of cool.”

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