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Grand Haven elementary students help encourage mask wearing with creative projects

Designs included a giant giraffe hooked up to motion sensors reminding people to wear medical grade masks.
Credit: Kim Brown
Ferry Elementary Students Help Encourage Mask Wearing at Health Pointe

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — Ferry Elementary students in Grand Haven teamed up with Health Pointe to help encourage mask wearing for patients and visitors. 

Designs ranged from a giant giraffe hooked up to motion sensors to an interactive game featuring a 6-foot mask prototype.

STEM teacher Andrew Ratke said it's part of their "Homegrown" program where they get to help the community and problem solve.

"We really wanted to do something to kind of connect them to community and things like that," Ratke said.

The program pairs students with local businesses and organizations like Health Pointe to solve real-life challenges related to their line of business. 

"They start to come up with ideas and solutions to how can they solve this problem," said Ratke.

Health Pointe asked Ferry Elementary 4th graders their driving question: "How can we ensure our patients and visitors wear medical grade masks as they enter Health Pointe?" From there, the students worked through the various stages of the creative sequence by conducting interviews, participating in a virtual tour of the facility, creating stakeholder and empathy maps and more before brainstorming solutions to present to Health Pointe. 

"I'm always so impressed with the students and what they come up with, especially when it's their first time through the design process," said Ratke.

"They were collaborative, innovative and professional. Through interviews with greeters, a receptionist, a security guard and a nurse, students were able to learn about the driving question from multiple viewpoints. This helped their evaluation and thinking process." 

Students looked for common themes, brainstorming and filtering ideas to determine workable solutions. Designs included a giant giraffe with motion sensors reminding people to wear medical grade masks as well as a digital screen activated by greeters as individuals entered the building to thank them for wearing a mask or providing a reminder. 

Credit: Kim Brown
Motion-censored giraffe created by students.

One group designed an interactive game where participants threw cloth balls at a 6-foot mask prototype featuring Velcro. This demonstrated that medical grade masks are made of safer material, providing more protection. 

"Health Pointe was very impressed by the students' ability to empathize with our patients and clearly understand the driving question/problem we tasked them with," said Joshua Troast, Health Pointe Executive Director. 

"To watch them critically think, ask questions to our staff and come up with creative solutions to our driving question was outstanding. They provided us with tangible solutions that we hope to implement!" 

Project-based learning programs like Homegrown provide students with exciting opportunities to develop their communication, problem solving and design skills at an early age. They learn how to process a problem and figure out the tools to find a solution. Through the program, GHAPS students have had the opportunity to work with multiple local businesses and organizations, including the City of Grand Haven, Grand Haven Township Fire Rescue, Herman Miller, Tri-Cities Historical Museum and Williams & Works. 

"For many students at this age it's their first time communicating with adults in this way. Project-based programs like Homegrown allows opportunities for students to connect with the community, build communication skills and fosters an understanding of possible career opportunities for students," said Andrea Tejchma, Ferry Elementary 4th grade teacher. 

Grand Haven Area Public Schools is a district of distinction for students in preschool through 12th grade. With a goal of providing exceptional educational experiences, GHAPS is committed to success for all students and strives to provide exemplary programs and opportunities to meet the diverse needs of students.  

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