CHRIS KIEFFER: Senior projects provide valuable learning experience

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

Christina Dooley unveiled a particularly large piece of art last week at Saltillo Elementary School.
As part of her senior project, Dooley, a senior at Tupelo High School, worked with a class of nine special education pre-kindergarten students at Saltillo Elementary.
With her help, they created an 8-by-8-foot painting that the students can hang in their classrooms. Each of the students added a handprint to the work.
As the school year rolls into its last quarter, many students like Dooley will be unveiling senior projects. Fellow Tupelo senior Jeff McIntosh created a step team that has performed throughout the community. Other Tupelo seniors will use their new laptops to execute the projects.
Danny Oswalt, who teaches English IV at Itawamba Agricultural High School, said senior projects are both more pleasant and productive than senior English research papers.
Oswalt said that students benefit from working with a mentor who “provides not only information for the paper, but also guides the student” in creating the project.
The student learns from someone directly involved in their field of interest, and he or she also must use that knowledge to serve the community.
Dooley’s mentor was Lissa Doorenbos, the special education preschool teacher at Saltillo Elementary. Doorenbos said her students really benefited from the roughly 40 hours they worked with Dooley. They also gained self-confidence from creating their own art work.
“She brought such a vitality into the classroom and her enthusiasm for art,” Doorenbos said. “She was contagious, and the children responded to that very quickly. They learned so many things we were already working on in the curriculum, but the art made it personal for each child.”
Dooley said she’s always had a heart for students with mental or physical developmental delays. She wanted to use art because it allows the students to verbalize what they’re feeling.
While completing the project, she also learned a valuable lesson.
“I’ve learned that I have to be a whole lot more patient with kids,” Dooley said. “Sometimes you think things will go one way, but it goes a totally different way. Everything won’t work out as you planned, but it will all work out in the end.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.