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From the classroom to the real world: Byron students help their city renovate miniature golf course

"This brings everything into real life which is really awesome for the kids to see and experience," said industrial technology teacher Jeremiah Daggett.

Byron Middle School Design Studio Community Transformation Proje
Shelby Mathison, 14, left, and Natalie Nicholas, 13, both eighth-graders at Byron Middle School, work on designing logos during class as part of the Design Studio Community Transformation Project on Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Byron. Byron Middle School students in the Design Studio Community Transformation Project are working with the city to restore a mini-golf course in Byron.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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BYRON — Middle school students are getting some real world experience in Byron, with the goal of helping their town regain one of its local activities.

Through the combined effort of two STEM classes and the Industrial Technology class, the students are working with the city to revitalize the miniature golf course. Overall, it’s known as the Design Studio Community Transformation Project.

“We want the kids to be able to see that they have a real impact on their community and have the ability – even at the middle school level – to transform and change something,” said Katie Donlin, a STEM teacher at Byron Middle School.

As part of the project, the students are cleaning up the golf course, which was closed prior to the middle school picking up the effort. Meanwhile in their classrooms and workshops, they’re putting the new look and design of the course together, making new signage and discussing their plans.

And along the way, they’re coordinating with city officials, allowing the students to get a sense of what it’s like to work with a client.

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On Thursday, Byron STEM teacher Marcus Leloux showed the classroom two examples of text for a new golf course sign on iPads. One had simple, flat words. The other was outlined to give the script a more multi-dimensional appearance.

He said the students could submit both to the city for consideration, but he also encouraged them to think about the design.

“I think your sign is going to pop more if it has something that looks like this,” Leloux said, referring to the more multi-dimensional option.

“You can send it this way. I don’t care, because it’s not our opinion, right? It’s about whatever our customer wants. But in my mind, if I’m picking a sign, I’d like it to pop out a little bit more.”

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In the same classroom was a laser engraver, allowing Leloux and his students to make mockups of the signs for the golf course.

The fact that they have the chance to work on an actual project outside their classroom isn’t lost on the students.

“I like that it’s in the real world and that it’s not just theoretical,” said eighth-grader Elisabeth Mull.

Mull was sitting at a table with fellow students Anastasia Kelly, Madilyn Ross and Ash Parkin. Together they were looking up details, such as where they could find amenities like lockers for the golf club rentals, a vending machine, and security cameras. One of the students was looking at the details of a pergola, which they said might have to be installed farther along in the multi-year process.

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Leloux said the class is a mixture of both instruction and hands-on work.

In the other STEM classroom, students were charged with documenting the process. Armed with cameras, they were making their way around the school, getting footage to compile on the project.

Another eighth-grader, Colleen Kamau, likes the head-start she’s able to get on some of the skills learned in the class.

“I think it's a good experience to take with us in our high school years,” she said. “Then after high school, we can have that overall knowledge of having helped the community.”

In yet another corner of the middle school, a separate group of students was working on putting the pieces together in the machine shop. Byron industrial technology teacher Jeremiah Daggett emphasized how the project is helping the students by elevating their classwork onto a new level.

"This brings everything into real life, which is really awesome for the kids to see and experience," he said. "Usually in industrial tech, it's very isolated: you're just working on your project. It's been a really cool process from contact to design to this. And they get a front row seat to all that."

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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