Fourth-graders partner with U.S. Coast Guard to solve problems

In a town known as Coast Guard City, USA, everyone supports the success of this military branch, even its youngest citizens.
Peach Plains Elementary School students recently collaborated with the U.S. Coast Guard to answer an important question: How can we share the work of our local Coast Guard station with our community? 
The project is part of the district’s Homegrown program, where area businesses and organizations partner with students to solve real-life problems.
Students presented their final solutions to the members of the Coast Guard and local officials at the project’s Showcase Event, held recently at Grand Haven’s Escanaba Park. 
“We had the best experience,” says fourth-grade teacher Annie Ratke, who planned the project for her students. “Master Chief Marc Moore and Petty Office Christopher Pike were wonderful hosts.”
The Showcase Event was the culmination of a two-week collaboration as Ratke guided her students through the “creative sequence” stages of observation, investigation, incubation, solution, and validation.
A tour of the station
As part of their research, Ratke and her students toured Grand Haven’s Coast Guard station, where “they learned so much about Coast Guard history and the work that our local station does here in Grand Haven,” says Ratke. 
Students also interviewed key stakeholders Joy Gaash, from Grand Haven Area Chamber of Commerce; Joni Bennett, a teacher and member of the Coast Guard Festival Committee; and Capt. Zachary Ford, director of the National Command Center in Washington, D.C.
Following their investigation, the class worked through what they learned, developed solutions, and pitched their ideas to a feedback panel. On the day of the event, students came ready with practiced presentations and creative skits to demonstrate their best ideas, which included:
  • Tours of the Coast Guard station and boats.
  • QR codes around the station and pier that link to information about the Coast Guard’s history and mission.
  • Coast Guard Buddies mentorship program in schools.
  • The Coastie Newspaper, highlighting local Coast Guard efforts and service members.
  • A Coast Guard skit to dramatize the work the Coast Guard does in the community.
“These types of projects are fantastic examples of the district’s commitment to providing educational opportunities that go beyond the traditional classroom,” says Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Scott Grimes. “Equitable learning experiences that foster connections within the community are such critical components of student learning and success.”


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.