On June 1, 2019, Ms. Barnett and her sophomore expo class will be attending “Expo fest” at the Oakdale Theater. There, they will showcase their project they have been working on throughout the school year other students around Connecticut and multiple judges.
Expo is a year long project that students work on along with their normal biology curriculum. This year, the theme for expo was “What if?”. Using the “What if?” theme, the students came up with an essential question to guide their project. Their question was “What if schools placed a greater value on teen mental health?” “Students decided to take on teen wellness from a mental health perspective,” said Ms. Barnett, who teaches the class. For their actual experiment, they will be trying a “wellness study-hall.” “Students would commit to participating periodically in an activity, like yoga, meditation or art, to help them focus on self-care. Their experiment is to have current study hall students volunteer to participate in their chosen restorative activities and to measure if the activities had any impact on how they feel,” Ms. Barnett explained.
While the class knows what they want to do for the project, there is still a lot more work to do before the expo event on June 1. They started their official experiment on May 3 and will be continuing to complete it until they get their results as they see fit.
During the year- long project, there is bound to be some difficulty. For the class, they have experienced multiple problems. At the beginning of the project, the students had to think of a subject. Even though this was a simple step in the project, they still had some trouble with it. “Everyone in the group identified teen mental health early on as a problem they wanted to explore, but they had trouble designing a solution and an experiment,” said Ms. Barnett. They also experienced a hard time at Expo Prep, an event meant to help students improve their project about half way through the year. When they attended the event, the team got advice that they did not want to hear. “At Expo Prep the judges told them that mental health was too hard of a topic and advised scraping it, which was hard for them to hear,” said Barnett. However, the students stuck with the idea. The next problem came with the group deciding on an actual experiment. “Since there are many laws regulating mental health, students struggled on creating a solution to their problem and in designing a method of measuring mental health without collecting sensitive information,” said Barnett. Realizing they were having trouble, they reached out to an advisor from Skills21 (organization that runs Expo) several times before coming up with the study hall idea.
As for Ms. Barnett, she has her hands full with this expo class. However, with her experience of teaching expo for the past two years, she has made multiple changes to the class to improve the flow of the class. To start, the class is a lot smaller compared to the one she had last year. This makes it easier on her part, as having a smaller class means less people to manage for the project. Not only is the class smaller, but they decided as a group on a system that allows them to work on their expo project and normal biology curriculum efficiently. This way, they can work on their project while still being up to date on the biology curriculum. Overall, Ms. Barnett’s experience from last year has helped her better her role in the project. “I have a better understanding of my role as facilitator. This is a student's project, not mine. I aim to bring awareness, use my veto power when something is off, and help with the big picture regulation of time and message,” she said.
For the class, they will be hoping to place well in the expo event at Oakdale Theater. However, they still have a lot of work to do to place well in the competition. They hope to improve on last years ranking, which was lower than expected. The sophomores, along with the other classes from EHHS going to expo, have been working hard for the whole year and along with placing well, will be able to enjoy a nice day at Oakdale Theater because of the hard work they have put in throughout the year. For more information on the sophomore expo class, you can see them on instagram @steady_living.
Photos credit: Mrs. Barnett