Luke Cross with a tyrannosaur fossil in the UAF paleontology lab.

Luke Cross with a tyrannosaur fossil in the UAF paleontology lab.

KMS students solve community problems

Editor’s note: There is a lot going on at Kenai Middle School, including the “KMS Purple Pages,” a monthly newspaper produced by the students. The following was written by student journalists to be printed in the Clarion. All photos were submitted by Susan Nabholz.

Community Problem Solving, part of the Future Problem Solving Program International, gives students an opportunity to view their community in a new light.

The program allows them to identify problems within the community that they believe they can solve or address. They follow a set process, but the students themselves develop their own projects in order to solve targeted problems. At Kenai Middle School, 21 eighth graders in Susan Nabholz’s Advanced Language Arts class have been working on their selected CmPS projects throughout this school year.

Some CmPS projects are based on environmental problems. HHH Paper Recycling collects recycled paper weekly from boxes they made and set up around the school. Hayden Hanson and Tyler Hippchen started the project in 2016, and this year Hayes Howard joined the group. Samuel Roberts’ project also has an environmental focus, as he plans to replace the fire rings at the Kenai Beach for a safer and more pleasant summer fishing season.

Another group based on problems affecting the environment is 4F, or Food for Families and Feathered Friends.

Katie Stockton and Caitlin Crabb have buckets set up in the lunchroom at school, and they collect unwanted food and food waste. Some food items are donated to students who rely on reduced or free lunch throughout the week, so they will have food for the weekend, while food scraps that otherwise would have been thrown away become meals for chickens.

Some of the CmPS projects address mental health issues. Don’t get MAD! is a project to inform students of problems such as mental blocks, anxiety, and depression so they can better cope with these conditions. This project was started by Milena Doyle, and Hermoine Lanfear soon joined her; they have been speaking to KMS classes during advisory periods to raise awareness. So far they have presented to almost all of the 7th and 8th graders at KMS.

FROST, a group of Friends Rolling One Snowball at a Time, carried out a project to help reduce the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder in the community. This project was started by Luke Cross, Johann Carranza, and Summer Foster, who hosted a lunchtime obstacle course at KMS to prove that fun could be had during the messy break-up time, and to give students at their school a way to enjoy the season and see it in a new light.

“You can have fun in all the seasons. You just need to overcome the obstacles in your way by using a little bit of creativity,” according to all three FROST members.

To help support local families, the Christmas for Angels program was created by Sydney Jeffries in 2015, and Julianna Hamilton joined her as a partner in 2017. Christmas for Angels is a fundraising program with all donations used to buy Christmas presents for the children living at the Lee Shore Center. This year’s fundraising on social media was very successful, and they were able to raise over $1,400.

“It’s really nice to know that some kids who aren’t in the most ideal of situations are getting something for Christmas.” Sydney and Julianna said.

They started this project because they feel that every child, no matter the circumstances, should still have a wonderful Christmas.

Some CmPS projects are inspired by students’ personal interests. Hadessah Parkki’s project is PSYCH Art Club; she wanted to create an after school art club based on her passion for art, and because of the alarming rate at which the arts are disappearing from schools due to budget cuts. Attendance at her art club has doubled over the past few months, and Hadessah feels that the club has been a great way for students to make friends and learn to deal with stress in a positive way.

“I’m helping keep the arts in schools, one art club at a time,” she said.

You can check out her Instagram feed at @psych_art_club.

Also motivated by his personal interests, Koda Poulin was the original founder of the SLAC organization. It started with his passion for swimming and his wish to share with others not only the enjoyment that one can get from swimming, but also the benefits. SLAC, Swim Lessons for Alaskan Children, is raising money for swim lesson scholarships for children whose families need financial assistance.

SLAC wanted to start their organization because of the very high drowning rates in the U.S. and Alaska. They were shocked to learn that according to the American Red Cross 61% of children in the U.S. don’t know how to swim.

“This percentage needs to be lowered, which is why SLAC set out to make a difference,” Koda said.

Amelia Mueller and Phoebe Thomas have since joined Koda with his project, and all three are holding a fundraiser on Saturday, May 5th at 11:00 am at the Kenai Beach, where people will be able to walk or run in a 1k, 5k, or 10k race for $10. All proceeds will go into a scholarship fund at the Nikiski Pool; contact them at for more information.

With a focus on physical health, gottaspork was created by Olivia Easley, Brandiee Bowers, and Erin Koziczkowski, based on spreading the word about eating healthy foods through the use of social media. Their goal is to encourage KMS students to eat healthier during lunch periods. They have done this by creating an Instagram feed, @gottaspork, to inform people about the health problems that can be caused by processed and frozen school lunches, to suggest ways to avoid these problems, and also to celebrate students who are eating healthy meals.

Eight KMS students representing five of the groups traveled to Fairbanks from April 15th-18th to exhibit their projects and compete in the FPS state meet, held at Pioneer Park. They presented their projects through the CmPS Fair to other students and coaches from across Alaska, including Sitka, Cordova, Fairbanks, and Kenai. This gave them the opportunity to actively share their ideas and discuss their projects with those who were interested. Students were also interviewed and judged by Gretchen Hundertmark, the Affiliate Director for FPS Alaska.

To prepare for the state meet, students needed to do lots of extra work in order to meet the competition requirements. This included a written report, tri-fold display, scrapbook, and slide show to present to the judge and other viewers. In order to complete this work, they spent many extra hours working after school, as well as two very late nights in Fairbanks. They worked extremely hard to make sure everything was ready for their presentations so their projects could be well represented.

Even though a lot of the work came together the week before the state meet, they still managed to get it done, and they produced quality displays to represent their projects. Students hope this has helped to spread the word and demonstrated the effectiveness of CmPS to people from all around Alaska, especially those not yet participating in the CmPS program.

The majority of students at the state meet were competing in Global Issues Problem Solving, where teams develop ideas to solve futuristic global problems; however, they do not have the opportunity to actually implement their action plans. The CmPS groups at KMS hope to inspire more students and schools to participate in this program, so there can be more students having positive impacts on their communities.

While in Fairbanks, students enjoyed many fun and exciting experiences in addition to the CmPS competition. They ran all over Pioneer Park on a scavenger hunt, participated in skits with an improv comedy group, presented a skit showcasing all of their projects, and still had time to run around playing in the sunshine and snow. They also toured parts of the UAF campus and went on an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the paleontology department at the Museum of the North, where they met with graduate and doctoral students and had the chance to touch actual fossils of Alaskan dinosaurs.

In conclusion, students feel that all of their Community Problem Solving projects have had an impact on the community at many levels, including their school and the city of Kenai. Their efforts have paid off in making our community a better place in both short-term and long-term ways. They hope that CmPS projects such as these will continue to spread to other schools and communities throughout the state of Alaska.

All of the students named in the article contributed their ideas, and the article was written by eighth-graders Johann Carranza, Caitlin Crabb, and Luke Cross, with editing assistance from their teacher, Susan Nabholz.

Caitlin Crabb and Katie Stockton at their 4F display. (Photo courtesy of Susan Nabholz

Caitlin Crabb and Katie Stockton at their 4F display. (Photo courtesy of Susan Nabholz

TOP: Kenai Middle School seventh graders Ben Boersma, Ky Calvert and Daniel Shelden participate in the FROST obstacle course. ABOVE: Kenai Middle School students ready to attend the awards banquet.

TOP: Kenai Middle School seventh graders Ben Boersma, Ky Calvert and Daniel Shelden participate in the FROST obstacle course. ABOVE: Kenai Middle School students ready to attend the awards banquet.

Kenai Middle School students ready to attend the awards banquet.

Kenai Middle School students ready to attend the awards banquet.

Hermoine and her partner Milena Doyle planning for their “Don’t get MAD!” presentations. They met with school counselor Sammie Johnson and school nurse Dixie St. John.

Hermoine and her partner Milena Doyle planning for their “Don’t get MAD!” presentations. They met with school counselor Sammie Johnson and school nurse Dixie St. John.

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