Educators and Students gather at KVEC Spring ARI Summit in PikevilleMay 16, 2016
More than 1,000 educators and students gathered at the East Kentucky Expo Center last month for Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative’s (KVEC) annual ARI (Appalachian Renaissance Initiative) Action Research Summit in Pikeville.
During the summit, teachers and administrators presented the results of various educational initiatives occurring in school districts throughout Eastern Kentucky. Students also set up booths throughout the Expo Center to showcase projects including community gardens, literacy programs, and other community-related efforts.
“This summit shows why we should be encouraged with education in Appalachia,” said Jim Tackett, KVEC ARI Readiness Lead and Forward in the Fifth Executive Director. “The excitement, talent and innovation demonstrated by our teachers and students are second-to-none. They are truly advancing teaching and learning in unique, yet relevant ways while state, national and international audiences watch intently.”
Along with educators from Eastern Kentucky, attendees were also from Georgia, Tennessee, New York, West Virginia, Florida and California. More than 5,000 individuals from China, Germany, England, Japan, France and Ireland were also able to view the summit through live-streaming.
One of the ARI initiatives showcased at the summit was the STARS program – Students Transforming Appalachia with Real Solutions. The program gives students the opportunity to publish their own books and learn about personally running a small business. More than one dozen students displayed and offered their books for sale to promote the program.
Christopher Epling, a published author from Regina, KY, partnered with KVEC and Thompson to begin the student experience.
“The focus of this is combining creative writing and visual arts together,” Epling said. “We thought about doing this as a project that would stand alone. A student creates a book, turns it in, and that is done. But Kelly Thompson from KVEC applied for a grant that would enable students to work with Dr. Snow from the Coleman School of Business…so we ordered copies of their books to extend the opportunity and learning.”
Epling uses his own imprint to publish the books. Students will sell copies of their books and then go on to order more.
“They are learning about marketing,” Epling said. “They are learning about running a small business, profit, revenue and sales…They are getting the community involved, generating interest. Hopefully, from here. They will take it and run. We are giving them everything they need to do it and be successful.”
Attendees attending the Summit were also able to experience the initial debut of the Mobile Inquiry Learning Lab (MILL). The lab, built by the region’s ARI students, is a tiny classroom constructed inside a mobile trailer that can be transported anywhere. The MILL provides a highly interactive learning space and resources that can be transported and made available for a variety of learning topics and opportunities.
“It was all created by students,” said Dr. Katrina Slone, KVEC ARI STEM Lead. “We can outfit it so that we can drive it to a school. We can provide maybe some things that they can’t afford at that school…We could outfit it so it could be a mobile science lab.”
Slone said if a particular school wants to do stream testing, for example, they could load it up with probes where they could do the testing with microscopes on-site.
“Some things that they don’t have in their school, they would have access to,” Dr. Slone said. “It kind of levels the playing field for kids.”
For additional information on the 2016 Action Research Summit, including more than 125 educator and student presentations which occurred during the summit, go to www.summit.theholler.org . This electronic portal also chronicles the larger scope of KVEC’s trek in rediscovering education in rural communities.
KVEC is a public education agency servicing a consortium of 19 school districts throughout Eastern Kentucky. ARI is a Race to the Top District Grant initiative and funded by the US Department of Education with more than 30 partners collaboratively working together to advance educational and economic prosperity via innovation within the region. Forward in the Fifth serves as one partner working to enhance student readiness and wellness outcomes.
Forward in the Fifth, a non-profit organization and an affiliate of The Center for Rural Development, was formed in 1986 by U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, (KY-05), and other leaders to work to reverse low education attainment levels in the Fifth Congressional District. The organization strives to engage community stakeholders to advance the value of education; serves as advocates to advance all education systems to improve educational attainment; and supports schools and stakeholders to secure needed resources to improve the quality of education within their local communities.