HAZARD, KY – Six months of student-centered classroom redesigns, technical project-based learning, on-campus gardening, leadership exchanges, and much more culminated in 150+ presentations on April 27 in Pikeville. More than 1200 people showed up and over 5,000 joined by live stream for the 2nd Annual Action Research Summit. Thousands of social media posts generated by #ARIaction16 and WYMT-TV coverage shared the undeniable story of east Kentucky’s leading innovation in rural education.
The event kicked off among the buzz of robots, flight simulators, plane restoration, student art, a coding challenge, and youth-centered makerspaces, all surrounding a brand new Mobile Inquiry Learning Laboratory (MILL). Dr. Jeff Hawkins, Director of Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC), welcomed the over 6,000+ assembled and tuned in with an award of excellence to 5th grade Megan Ferguson of Paintsville Independent, for her dedication to learning by using robot telepresence to attend class even when her cancer treatments kept her away from school this year. Digital Promise, congressionally authorized to accelerate innovation in education, then announced KVEC’s designation as a national Education Innovation Cluster with a highly anticipated video premiere featuring all seventeen school districts and the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative (ARI).
Hundreds of students performed, displayed art, sold entrepreneurial creations, facilitated sessions, and helped to live stream, tweet, and capture digital stories throughout the event. Three school districts were awarded a combined $45,000 for Building It Forward tiny house project proposals to be exhibited at the 3rd annual event next Spring. Two students won new laptops in a #CodeAppalachia coding challenge tie, and all 150 teachers were given certificates of excellence for ARI leadership. Their projects, pictures, and video presentations can be found at Summit.theholler.org.
Six teachers from Middlesboro Independent Schools were among the 150 teachers presenting Learning Innovation Grant projects. Jenna Voges, from Middlesboro Middle School, presented “Developing Future Engineers – Science Olympiad”. Presentations from Middlesboro Elementary School teachers included Prudie Thomas’ “The Blended Learning Library”, Mary Allen’s “Speech Therapy Bursts”, Angela Green’s “Extra! Extra! Read All About It”, and Kristy Lewis’ “Telling the Tale”. Middlesboro High School Student Senate member, Rebecca Prichard, spoke to those in attendance, giving an overview of The Action Research Summit. Tate Jackson, Kailey Owens, Jordyn Ferguson, and Jamarah Young, from Middlesboro Middle School, displayed their award-winning entrepreneurial business plans. A banner art project, created by Middlesboro High School art students, was also put on display at the summit.
In 2013, Middlesboro Independent Schools, KVEC and sixteen additional school districts in southeastern Kentucky were awarded a highly competitive Race to the Top District grant by the U.S. Department of Education. With this support, KVEC launched its Appalachian Renaissance Initiative (ARI) to share resources across the region, personalize student and professional learning, empower leaders, revitalize local communities, and prepare students for next-generation college and career paths. The next round of ARI classroom learning innovations will be showcased similarly at the East KY Expo Center on October 26.