Identifying challenges and looking for solutions, following their passions and sharing their ideas, 31 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in Jackson County’s elementary schools were honored as Difference Makers last month.
Ranging from a device that makes it easier to carry a carload of groceries into the house without cutting off the circulation to your fingers, to a program that matches older student mentors with younger proteges, to a product that dissolves dog poop for a cleaner environment, the students’ service projects, inventions, and scientific research brought out creative, compassionate and clever concepts and contraptions.
Competitions across the Jackson County School System’s six schools identified the top ideas, and judging for the third annual Difference Makers Fair took place at Jackson County Comprehensive High School the morning of March 14.
Students had prepared display boards and brought along prototypes of their inventions, examples of their work, and photographs of their projects. Each made a presentation to a team of judges and then answered their questions.
The students spent the morning rotating through their presentation sessions, a hands-on 4-H environmental session led by Jackson County Extension Agent 4-H Ali Merk, and a science experiment led by Will Dodd, regional coordinator for Oconee River Georgia Youth Science and Technology Center.
The exhibit was open to the public that evening before an awards ceremony coordinated by JCCHS media specialist Jennifer Saine. The event was sponsored by Jackson EMC.
First-place awards went to:
- Gum Springs Elementary School fourth-grader Abby Campbell for “Butterfly Effect,” a project that involved creating business cards that encouraged the receiver to perform an act of kindness and then pass the card to someone else. She asked card recipients to track their good works via a Facebook page during the 10-week project, and she logged more than 30,000 responses from around the world.
- South Jackson Elementary School fifth-grader Ryleigh Nunn for “Heavenly Hands,” an aid for grocery shoppers than helps them unload a carload of groceries in just one trip by sliding the plastic bag handles onto a bar with its own handle.
- East Jackson Elementary School fifth-grader Mattison Renrick for “Give Blood, Give Life,” a project that had her organizing her school’s first-ever Blood Drive with the American Red Cross, collecting 34 pints of blood. She also created a video lesson for the school’s morning news program to teach kids about how blood functions and why it’s important to be a blood donor.
- GSES fifth-grader Brody Wooten for “Heart to Hands,” helping the homeless all over the world by creating supply bags for people living on the streets. Brody’s bags have been shipped to all 50 states in the U.S. and five countries.
Second-place awards went to EJES fifth-grader Reese Sorrow for “Child Impact,” a peer mentoring project that matched kindergarten, first- and second-graders with fourth- and fifth-grade role models; SJES fourth-grader Bodey Farfour for “Lego Builder,” an application he created that allows LEGO fans to use bricks they already own to build designs that are usually sold in sets; EJES fourth-grader Noah Nichols for “Happy Kids,” a project that involved his donation of toys and gifts to patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and treat bags for the nursing staff; and EJES fourth-grader Issac Robbins for “Project H.M.R.,” a fundraiser that brought in enough money to provide a classroom set of Chromebook computers and a carload of school supplies for the students and staff of Hiland Park Elementary School in Panama City, Florida, which suffered significant damage from Hurricane Michael.
Third-place awards went to GSES fourth-grader Allison Christiansen for “Off the Chain,” a fundraiser to build fences for two dogs who previously lived chained up in their yards; GSES fifth-grader Addi Power for “Every Moment Counts,” the creation of custom t-shirts that were sold to raise money for Extra Special People, an organization that helps children with special needs; Maysville Elementary School fourth-grader Zoey Kozlowski for “What A Mess!” a portable product to clean up a messy school desk that closes up to make a bag; North Jackson fourth-grader Maher Magness for the “Doozazter Dissolver,” a product that dissolves poop left behind by dogs; and GSES fifth-grader Carson Davenport for “Fostering Hearts,” a website and video he created and shared on social media to bring awareness to the needs of foster parents and foster children and information on ways to support the foster care system.
Other school-level winners who competed at the district competition are:
- EJES: third-grader Noah Banks; and fifth-graders Leila Huss, Collin Ramsey, and Courtney Cameron.
- GSES: fourth-graders Lucas Armstrong and Sydney Peterson; and fifth-graders Allie Edwards, Brooklyn Davis, and Hadassah Charand.
- Maysville Elementary School: fourth-graders Rhielle Reese and Kamdyn Dudley.
- NJES: fourth-graders Hannah Stovall, Brandt Weatherly, and Kolton Pruitt.
- SJES: fifth-graders Ryddic Kinley and Kasen Wagner.
- West Jackson Elementary School: fourth-graders Hayle Hart and Emily Carver.
Judges came from a variety of disciplines and included three staffers from Georgia 4-H: Keri Hobbs, state volunteer specialist; Jason Estep, citizenship and leadership specialist; and Natalie Bock, program development specialist. They were joined by Kelby Hobbs, civil engineer with U.S. Department of Agriculture; Ken Riddleberger, who retired from the Department of Natural Resources; Dianne Hardy, who retired from Habersham County Schools and now works with Mountain Ed Charter System; Cass Robinson, retired educator and director of Inspire Educators, a consulting firm; Deborah Riddleberger, JCSS science/STEAM instructional specialist; Mandy Byers, recruiting director for Cook Systems and owner of Combined Chaos Design Company; and Sherry Holman, Follett Books.
The students’ coaches are Kaycie Rogers, Jenny Palmer, Whitney Wilbanks, and Becky Huss, EJES; Tammi Gowen and Chessie Laird, GSES; Jennifer Plummer, MES; Kasey Sheridan, NJES; Thomas Wilcox, SJES; and Amy Tinnell and Kathy Venable, WJES.
Saine said nearly 200 students across the district had entered the competition, which is designed to encourage students “to generate problem-based projects and solutions that ‘make a difference’ in the world around them.”
The top 15 percent of each school’s competitors advanced to the district competition.
“We work to empower our students and help them realize that, even from a young age, it is important to be on the lookout for people in need and ways we can support them or improve their lives,” Saine said at the awards ceremony, held in the JCCHS auditorium.
“It is truly amazing to see what young people can accomplish when we help them realize they can have great impact, especially if adults take their ideas seriously and provide assistance,” she said.
Links to pictures of each of the students and their project boards are posted on the district’s Facebook page, along with more photos from the events of the day.