Mission for Ricci students: Projects that make a difference

Mission for Ricci students: Projects that make a difference

Ricci Middle School 8th-graders Sam Harney and Max Piccirillo are researching gratitude and how to spread it for their yearlong Project-Based Learning initiative in Teresa Connors’ social studies class. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – A group of Ricci Middle School students are working to better their school, town and world with ongoing projects they say will have a direct impact.

Social studies teacher Teresa Connors implemented project-based learning at Ricci several years ago, recognizing the benefits of giving students free rein to work on year-long projects that they’re passionate about.

Students select a range of topics, and each project impacts the school community or larger community in a positive way, Connors said.

Anna Richardson decided to focus her project on the effects of discrimination, and is planning a lesson for a group of 7th-graders on the topic.

“Discrimination still exists,” Richardson said. She said she hopes to help her peers learn how they can better treat minorities.

Leo Giusti and Amarion Taylor are continuing to promote the Ricci Closet, the school’s secondhand clothing store, and to remove the shame of using the resource.

Vincent Mortenson is planning a walkathon to raise money for a student in Ethiopia.

A number of students chose to focus their projects on the environment, including Travis Lemaire, who is creating an environmental club at Ricci.

Lemaire told The North Providence Breeze that his project has a nine-part plan, which includes a school cleanup as well as participating in other local cleanup efforts.

“I walk out of school and see water bottles, trash and wrappers. We see pollution everywhere. It’s a worldwide issue, and it’s not just humans that are impacted but plants and animals, too. My goal is to make the world a little cleaner,” Lemaire said.

For her project on single-use plastic products and recycling, Zainab Syeda is using plastic waste to create crafts for her teachers. So far, she’s worked on a plastic penguin for her math teacher and octopi for her art teacher.

“I wanted to try to enhance the beauty of the products instead of throwing them into oceans and polluting the environment,” Syeda said. She said she was surprised at how challenging it was to find photos of the Pacific Ocean without litter in them.

Also focusing on pollution, waste and global warming, Sam Gborborquellie and Kai Capitumini say they are hoping to educate people about single-use plastics.

“People don’t realize global warming and climate change are going on,” Gborborquellie said. “And some people don’t believe it’s happening,” Capitumini added.

In their research, Capitumini said they learned that single-use plastics pollute the environment, “at every single phase of its life.”

Other projects include the development of an intramural basketball program, research on the drop in the number of teens who read regularly, internet addiction and anti-Semitism.

Connors said the most important aspect of the projects is that students come up with their own ideas for making a change.

"It's a year-long study that involves research, communication with adults, writing, a final product, and a presentation," she said. "It usually involves moving outside of your comfort zone because they need to reach out to someone or an organization to further their understanding."

Students are expected to wrap up their projects in early May, and parents will be invited to school to see the final products.