Students use project-based learning to offer pop-up taco truck, drive-in movie theater experiences
SATANTA – Located right off of US-56 highway – just an hour from the Colorado border and 30 minutes from the Oklahoma border - this small Kansas community is home to about 1,100 people.
The rural southwest town has a large agricultural industry – ranches, family farms and feedlots. There are banks, a hospital, a few gas stations, two hair salons, three restaurants, a city pool and a smattering of other small businesses. And then, like most small towns, there is the heart of the community – Satanta Unified School District 507. The district services 240 kindergarten through 12th-grade students.
“I think there is a very generous spirit in Satanta,” said Karen Burrows, principal of Satanta Grade School. “Residents give very generously, especially to support children. For example, the community provides all of the school supplies for USD 507 students and has done so for about 10 years now.”
This summer, through USD 507’s Summer Learning Program, Satanta’s students gave residents some new experiences, such as an ice cream shop, a taco truck and even a drive-in movie theater. The students didn't just have fun with these projects they created, they learned while doing them.
“This program, which spans grades pre-K-12, is not a remediation program,” according to the district’s website. “It is an enrichment program focused on stopping learning regression (often referred to as the summer slide).”
After dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and students were ready for something different. Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds have allowed the district to do just that.
“We needed something to keep the kids engaged,” Burrows said. “We also have a problem with summer slide. Last year went really, really well. The teachers were ready to be creative, and kids thought up some of the ideas, too. It has been very student directed.”
Last summer, older students who participated in the summer program had a pop-up tie-dye boutique and sold tie-dyed clothing items; made and sold salsa and cookies; and created a Satanta Day history book, which they donated to area libraries and also sold to community members.
Younger students learned about National Parks and visited online with a national park ranger; studied about the Olympics to learn about the countries taking part and even participated in some Olympic-style games created by staff members; and spent time learning about the town of Satanta by taking daily field trips to the city water tower, farms, a feedlot and the city building. The younger students also created their own towns out of cardboard boxes.
About 48 grade school students participated in the summer program this year. There were about 20 students who took part in the junior high/high school program this summer.
“That’s a pretty good turnout for us,” Burrows said.
Last summer, there were three, two-week sessions.
“By the time the third session ended, we were exhausted,” Burrows said. “This summer, we did two hands-on sessions in June and will have a more traditional jump start summer school in August.”
Students enjoyed breakfast and lunch each day of the Summer Learning Program provided through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Each day began with breakfast, followed by grade school students playing hand chimes as a group.
The first two-week session for kindergarten through fifth-grade students focused on deep sea creatures.
“The students traveled through stations learning about deep sea creatures and creating art projects about the creatures,” Burrows said. “For the second session, the theme was fairy tales. We picked one fairy tale for each day. Students traveled through stations learning about the story elements of each fairy tale, retelling the fairy tale and creating an art project that connects to the story.”
Makennan Kraemer, who is “almost 10,” shared what he learned about different sharks, coral reefs, five different oceans, crabs and narwhals.
“I really liked it,” Makennan said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It would be awesome if we could do this all year.”
Kenya Salamanca, 9, liked learning about crabs during the first session, but also enjoyed the arts and crafts she created during the second session – especially reading and learning about “The Three Little Pigs.”
During the first-two week session for sixth- through 12th-grade students, a pop-up taco bus was planned for one day on main street in Satanta.
“The students chose the menu, determined prices, prepared the food, publicized the event and ran the pop-up restaurant,” Burrows said. “They served street tacos, quesadillas, burritos, fresas con crema, horchata and empanadas.”
For the second session, the older students divided into groups and selected different projects to work on, including creating an ice cream shop with homemade ice cream, making and selling cheesecake, making and selling candles and even organizing a drive-in movie night.
Liam Hatcher, Melissa Chavez, Rocio Ragel, all 11, and Jazmin Aldarado, 10, participated in the first and second sessions of the junior high/high school summer. They also participated in the pop-up taco truck.
“I really like counting the money and making burritos,” Liam said.
Jazmin said she enjoyed making food while Melissa helped promote the event and pass out menus.
“I learned how to make and serve the drinks,” Rocio said.
A few weeks ago, the four students munched on popcorn as they tried to figure out how much to charge per serving at the drive-in concession stand. Liam’s idea was to host a drive-in movie theater experience for the community at his family’s farm. His uncle, who works at Sony Pictures, was able to help Liam and the students secure the rights to project “Angry Birds” on the side of a large warehouse on the family farm.
“They had very low expenses, and the concession stand did really well,” Burrows said.
Melissa decided to make and sell candles with her team, Candle Crew.
“We got to learn while we made them (candles),” she said.
Another group was busy determining ice cream flavors and what amount to charge per scoop. The group, which called themselves Forever Homemade Ice Cream, settled on strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, cookies and cream and Nutella for flavors and found recipes online.
“There’s not a place in Satanta – other than the grocery store - where you can buy ice cream,” according to Burrows.
The grade school principal is already thinking ahead to next year.
“We’re thinking we’ll take a ‘Shark Tank’ approach where the kids have to come up with a proposal to present to the teachers, and maybe others, like board of education members, superintendent, etc., who will decide if they are willing to invest in the venture,” she said. “It has been so positive. The kids really seem to like it, and the parents and community are grateful for the opportunities.”
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