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Draper Journal

Corner Canyon students make positive impact for themselves, others

Dec 02, 2022 12:32PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Corner Canyon High student Anders Krantz has a goal to move up to a faster level in mountain biking. As a sophomore, he raced in the JV-C division.

“If I can move up to a different category, and get faster, then I'll get more points for our team—and maybe we can win state next year,” Krantz said. “A lot of my friends are faster than me and they go in faster groups when we practice. If I was faster, then I could ride with them.”

So, when his 10th-grade English Language Arts teacher, Lauren Lewis, announced the yearlong assignment, “Be the Change,” his personal goal became his project.

“I want to get stronger. Before, when we’d drive somewhere, especially to races, we’d have to load the bikes on the truck. I couldn't do that very well. Now (since setting his goal), I can do it a little easier and hoping that it'll get even easier yet,” he said. “This is pretty cool assignment; it’s a good opportunity to try to change something.”

Under his teacher’s instruction, Krantz created his first website to track his improved fitness.

“I’m trying to ride more times a week. I starting running and now, I’m planning to run a half-marathon. I’m also lifting twice per week,” he said, adding that he documents his activity with pictures as well as recording it on the website.

Lewis said this project’s goal “is to make a positive difference—and the students decide how they make that positive difference.”

Students have selected topics for “Be the Change” from learning to cook or learning a new instrument to money management or starting a fashion line.

Lewis said students can become personal with their projects.

“I’ve had students do mental health journeys and they've researched different things to help with it; they’ve tried meditating, gratitude journals, facial masks, listen to calming music and therapy,” she said. “Others have championed an issue that they want to bring awareness; I’ve had students who have worked on doing anti-bullying campaigns at schools. One student, who did that, wrote a book about her experience with bullying and had that book published.”

Whether it’s an individual plan or involves family or a friend group, and is a plan for self-improvement or to serve the community, the students need to set their goals and create an action plan.

“They tell me how they're going to get started on it, the milestones they want to have accomplished in one month, three months, six months and at the end of the school year. They have to prove through their research, that their projects can make a positive difference. Then, they give two three- to five-minute presentations to tell the class how their projects are making a positive difference,” she said. “I teach them how to code an entire website and we track it there. It’s a helpful skill and coding is new for a lot of them. In the past, presentation binders or portfolios were the expectations, but I don’t think we live in that world anymore. Now students can show their websites to help get scholarships, internships or jobs, which is pretty cool.”

The “Be the Change” project has evolved from when Lewis started it 10 years ago when it was a research project or a two-week service project.

“The first year, it was at the end of the year and the students did acts of kindness. As I’ve done this, I figured if they were doing research, it might as well be on something they care about more than a random topic. So, I decided to have them do their projects and choose a way to make a positive difference. It started pretty small, but it's built over the years,” she said.

Lewis joins the students in setting a goal and tracking it all year. This year, she’s chosen to try something new every month. The activities are selected by the students.

“Some of the kids also are doing the same thing,” Lewis said. “In September, the students decided I was to learn to play basketball since they know I know nothing about sports. In October, I learned to disco skate. I’ve done ‘learn something new’ last year and I learned to skateboard. Sometimes, inspiration comes from other kids’ projects.”

While Lewis has had a variety of projects, she feels “Be the Change,” has had a positive impact on students and herself.

“I love it so much because I like having something that is just pure happiness. A lot of things in literature delve into the deepest questions of life and aren’t happy; we’re reading ‘Frankenstein’ right now and it's about a creature who murdered a bunch of people, so that’s not particularly happy. This project is different from that. They get to really focus on something that can benefit them in their own lives that they get to take away with them forever,” Lewis said. “I tell kids that they can go all in with this and it can change their lives.”