Three students hold a trophy in the shape of the state of Kentucky that reads: STLP, 2022 State Championship, Best K-5 Project in Kentucky.

Fifth grade Russell-McDowell Intermediate School (Russell Independent) students (from left) Zaina Razak, Jimmylee Mullins and Xander Everman were awarded Best K-5 Project at the 2022 Kentucky STLP State Championship. The team created a website for the Greenup County War Memorial with help from community members. Photo courtesy of Russell Independent Schools, April 20, 2022.

Fifth-grade student Xander Everman from Russell-McDowell Intermediate School (Russell Independent) felt like a lot of his peers used the Greenup County War Memorial as a playground, with no real context on the history or significance of the memorial. Everman, alongside classmates Zaina Razak and Jimmylee Mullins, wanted to change that.

“Sometimes we stop there after a field trip and we look around. Whenever kids go there, they really don’t know or understand what they are looking at,” said Everman. “Like the tanks – they don’t know what it was used for or what war it was used in and the history behind it. We wanted to help have more information.”

Everman, Razak and Mullins used the war memorial as inspiration for their Student Technology Leadership Program (SLTP) project. The trio created a website that has a page for each piece of equipment and honors local veterans. Visitors can find a QR code beside each item at the memorial. Scanning the QR code takes visitors straight to the website, where they can read about the equipment or listen to one of the students read the description.

A lot of the information on the website is content provided by Greenup County War Memorial President Keith Hammond. Hammond was excited the kids took on the project because it was something the war memorial committee had talked about, but never got around to doing.

“We didn’t have anything down there describing what the stuff is. People show up and yeah, there’s a plane, there’s a tank, but they don’t know what they are. That’s about as far as it ever went,” said Hammond.

Hammond admits he didn’t know a lot about QR codes but told the kids if they kept the project professional and respectful, he was ready to support them.

“They went to town on it and it turned out great,” he said. “People stop in every day. It’s nonstop down there and we have had nothing but good comments about it. People are really happy that happened.”

The Greenup County War Memorial committee is recognizing the students at their 2022 Memorial Day ceremony.

The most formative experience for the students was speaking to Amy West Hogsett, the daughter of Ernest E. West, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. West was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1954 after he rescued several other wounded soldiers in the Korean War.

Mullins thought West’s life sounded like a movie.

“He got so much shrapnel in him he couldn’t even do an MRI scan. He got married in New York and the wedding was on TV,” said Mullins.

Everman was excited to continue the work West started by honoring the veterans in their county.

“Sometimes you think about where we live and you think it’s a really small city, but this really opened our eyes to some really great people and really heroic people that have done some amazing things in our county,” said Everman.

Hogsett was excited that the students wanted to learn more about her dad and honor veterans.

“It’s always wonderful when I get to do anything about my dad. “My dad did so much in his community, in his state and his country. There’s a lot of stories people don’t get to hear and its always great to share that,” said Hogsett. “But I don’t want to take away from the students. It was their project, their idea. I’m so proud of them.”

The students said the project would not have been possible without the support of several other district and school leaders. They worked with Norman’s Locker Room to make t-shirts and Russell-McDowell Intermediate School Chief Information Officer Greta Casto helped engrave the  QR codes into metal plaques. Aaron Woolem, the Russell Area Technology Center Welding instructor, helped weld their QR code stands.

A photo of a silver plaque in the ground that has a QR code on it and reads: Battlefield Cross Memorial.

Russell-McDowell Intermediate School students Zaina Razak, Jimmylee Mullins and Xander Everman created QR code plaques that lead to a website with more information on items at the Greenup County War Memorial. Photo courtesy of Russell Independent Schools, April, 20, 2022.

All their conversations and hard work helped their project, “Building Background on the Greenup County War Memorial,” win Best K-5 Project at the STLP State Championship on April 20.

STLP Projects address real-life concerns, issues or challenges that students identify. Successful projects are able to present their elevator pitch focusing on the STLP Tech Standards: empowered learner, digital citizenship, knowledge constructor, innovative designer, computational thinker, creative communicator and global collaborator.

“One thing that stands out is that they are only in 5th grade and they have done something you don’t see a lot of grown-ups do – develop a website, create video recordings, create QR codes. They learned a lot of practical skills making this project,” said Russell-McDowell Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Lab Teacher Shane Jordan.

Razak’s favorite part about STLP is working together on a project, even if it doesn’t always go to plan. While working on their website, the team experienced difficulties with the audio recordings working the way they wanted them to.

“[In STLP], you get to do a lot of digital things and come together and do digital things together – like a website. You get to really talk to people and work on a project. It does take a lot of time to get it right,” she said.

The students built in mechanisms for feedback. Anyone who uses their website can take a survey which gives live updates to the students so they can see areas for improvement or what people are enjoying.

The group and their teacher will head to New Orleans, La. in June 2022 to present their project at the ISTELive educational technology conference.