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Dillon Valley Elementary students explore world issues

Kathryn Corazzelli
summit daily news

Tonight, fifth-graders at Dillon Valley Elementary celebrate the end of their elementary school career by presenting their final exhibition projects.

“It’s not just a culminating experience for fifth grade, it’s really a culminating experience for all of the group inquiry they’ve been doing since pre-school,” said Gayle Jones Westerberg, principal at DVE.

The exhibition is a required experience for students participating in the school’s Primary Years Programme, which is the first step in the International Baccalaureate program.

IB is a method of teaching meant to cultivate intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills while giving students a broader sense of knowledge. Instead of lessons, teachers develop “units of inquiry.”

Meant to demonstrate student learning so far, the final project splits students into groups of about eight students, where they spend six weeks researching and preparing to present information on a chosen topic.

There are six groups presenting tonight on six different topics: endangered animals, human rights, natural disasters, man-made disasters; reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink; and unhealthy diet. Jones Westerberg said the students drew their ideas from a survey about world issues, and picked out what and how they wanted to take action, with very limited intervention from teachers and parents.

“It requires students to use their inquiry skills and be great communicators,” she said. “They need to be open minded… it’s a group process.”

Because DVE is a dual-language school, students will be presenting their topics to the community in both English and Spanish using quizzes and technology to help relay information. The unhealthy diet group is performing health screenings, and exploring the societal and economic implications of obesity.

“They’re focused on educating the community,” said Jones Westerberg.

This will be the first dual-language group to graduate from DVE that has participated in the program since kindergarten.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth in our students,” Jones Westerberg said. “We’re excited to see them move on to the middle school, and I’m excited to follow them for the rest of their lives. I see them having many opportunities.”

Tonight’s project isn’t just a culminating experience for the fifth-graders, but for Jones Westerberg. She is retiring at the end of this school year after a 38-year career in education, 29 of which were in Summit County.

Jones Westerberg has been a dean of students at the middle school, principal of Silverthorne Elementary, and has been at DVE since 2000. Prior to moving to Summit County, she was both an elementary and a middle school teacher.

“I have some mixed feelings about retiring,” she said. “I will certainly miss the children and the wonderful staff and parents and all the relationships.”

Although she’s retiring, Jones Westerberg said she still plans on learning more about and focusing on educational issues and problems.

“I don’t see my interest in education waning in the next decade,” she said. “I see that it just might look different.”

For more information on Jones Westerberg and her career, look for her profile in the Summit Daily News on June 5.

The fifth-grade exhibitions take place at DVE tonight at 5:30 p.m.


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