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April 13, 2012

Blinn program shows fifth graders the value of education

‘If I Had a Hammer’ teaches demonstrates math, physics through construction project

Blinn College-Schulenburg showed Fayetteville Elementary School fifth graders the value of a complete education Friday morning as they erected a one-room house the entire class could fit inside.

The project was part of the “If I Had a Hammer” program, designed to teach students math and other skills through real-world applications while emphasizing the importance of continuing education. Blinn has been participating in the program for more than a decade, Blinn-Schulenburg Director Becky Garlick said.

“We want to teach children about making good choices and make them realize how their choices impact their lives,” she said.

Blinn-Schulenburg invited about 450 students on campus last year to participate in the program, with students from Fayetteville, La Grange, Columbus, Flatonia, Schulenburg, Hallettsville and Sacred Heart taking part. If I Had a Hammer is Blinn-Schulenburg’s largest youth outreach program.

With the help of Blinn staff, students are given instructions to erect the building. As they proceed, the students are shown the math, geometry, physics and other subjects utilized in the construction process.

“What I think is neat is at the end when the instructor explains how they used each subject,” said Fayetteville Elementary teacher Kerri Wick, who has now brought her classes to Blinn to participate in the program each of the last three years. “I’m a math teacher, so I really like the way they show the students real-world applications.”

More than 500,000 students have participated in “If I Had a Hammer” programs across the nation, and an independent third-party evaluation by The University of Memphis showed 116 students from eight City of Memphis schools averaged an increase of 64.4 percent in their math scores.

Of course, students don’t necessarily realize how much they’re learning.

“I thought it was really fun to hammer the nails and put the windows in,” said fifth grader Emma LaPeyre. “I didn’t think we would get to do very much, but we got to use hammers and drills.”

“I liked climbing up the ladder and putting the truss up on the house,” added Stuart Castro. “We built a really good house.”

In addition to “If I Had a Hammer,” Blinn-Schulenburg offers Kids’ College in the summer, and hosted CareerQuest for eighth graders in January, which showed students how a college education can affect their future earning power.