Shawnee Mission North sophomores have ideas for making the school experience better. They presented these ideas to educators this spring as part of an English Language Arts unit.
Students gathered in the SM North Learning Commons to present their ideas to an audience of classmates, teachers, and administrators. Their ideas included starting the school day later, making passing times longer, and offering a driver’s education course.
The presentations were the culminating activity of an argumentative unit developed by the 10th grade English Language Arts Professional Learning Community (PLC). A PLC is a team of educators who work collaboratively to create a learning environment where all students can reach their full potential.
Special education teacher Carolann White explained the team of educators wanted students to learn how to give an argumentative speech in a way that was meaningful to them. Students were encouraged to choose a topic addressing a school-based problem or concern from their perspective. By making the unit relevant to their lives and experiences, the teachers also hope students can see that they hold the power to make change.
“Some students don’t think they can make a difference, we want them to know that’s not true,” explained White. “We want them to have ownership, to think about solutions and see the possibility of changes in the future.”
Sophomore Katherine Velasquez shared that students first formed groups to talk about changes they would like to see at school. They spent time on individual research then developed their arguments, made posters, and wrote essays.
Calen Domingues, sophomore, chose to give a presentation about school lunch menus. He expressed appreciation for the opportunity to present ideas for change to district leadership.
“It feels good that there are people who care about what students have to say,” expressed Domingues. “Most of the time it feels like kids don’t get a say in much of what they want in this world. This is an opportunity for kids to speak up.”