Highlands Ranch students craft solutions for real-world issues

Video ads offer ways to tackle problems in state

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Eighth-grade students at Cresthill Middle School in Highlands Ranch looked at the biggest problems facing Colorado and developed their own video advertisements to explain how they would fix them.

Bryce Johansson's team wanted to see if Douglas County students were sleeping enough. It found, on average, students only get seven hours compared to the recommended eight to 10 hoursfor teenagers.

“We were really disappointed in that and wanted to make it so there was an extra hour before school,” Johansson said.

Reiley Forshey and her group studied how to keep increasing traffic in the Denver area from affecting the state's tourism industry.

“Our solution was more public transportation such as light rails and stuff like that,” Forshey said.

Aarushi Gupta and her team discovered a need for funding in the bio-medical industry.

“Our solution was to fund small business incubators to help them grow and help find cures,” Gupta said.

Thirty-seven teams representing 155 eighth-graders spent three months on the projects, which were acollaboration among social studies, language arts, science and wellness classes. The project reflected the district's focus on innovation, 21st Century Skills and real-world connections, social studies teacher Sonja Herring said.

"Rather than just learning about how one goes about impacting local government, we are actually trying to go through the process ourselves," she said. "Students were able to choose an issue that was truly affecting Colorado in which they could invest their time and passion."

Groups eventually settled on a particular issue and worked to create a real-world solution that took into account the problems' complexities — ranging from where the money would come from to the impact on Colorado's economy and people. They then wrote scripts and created political ads to support their solution.

The class voted on the most persuasive ads and then sent the top 10 to an advertising executive at Integer Group, a global marketing agency based in Englewood, to evaluate.

Students also had the opportunity to write letters to their state representatives and senators to convince them to use their suggestions in this legislative session.

“I was really impressed,” Herring said. “They had the opportunity through their research to see what are the problems that are impacting our state and then had to find a real-world solution. We had some very innovative solutions and things that would really work.”

Students also learned some of advertising's finer points and how to persuade viewers to their cause.

“We learned that there's different types of persuasion you can use to make your side sound better,” said Jack Copper, who worked on a project advocating for more public transportation.

“ We learned about things like making sure that your music aligns with what your narrator is talking about,” Copper said. “We also learned that colors such as blue or green — which are cool colors — can change the mood of your advertisement. Warmer colors can make it more upbeat.”

Students said they enjoyed the project because they chose topics that interested them and put their ideas into action.

“We were able to actually start making a change," Forshey said, "and come up with direct solutions that have the potential to actually fix something.”

To watch the videos, click here.

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