APRIL 26, 2017

Small Kansas Elementary School Beats Odds to Win Grand Prize in Sixth Annual Follett Challenge

Learning with Cattle Program Earns School $60,000 in Follett Products, Services

Located 80 miles northeast of Wichita with a proud population of approximately 460 residents, Strong City, Kansas, is renowned for its production of agriculture and cattle, and as annual host of the Flint Hills Rodeo. Now, the rural town’s elementary school will be known as the grand-prize winner of the sixth annual Follett Challenge, a contest sponsored by Follett seeking the most innovative K-12 programs teaching 21st-century skills in today's schools.

For its winning entry, Chase County Elementary School—part of Chase County USD 284 with an enrollment of 180 students—earns a $60,000 prize in Follett products and services plus a celebration at their school.

Judges for the Follett Challenge singled out the school’s program, “Learning with Cattle,” which finds the students learning valuable STEM lessons and 21st-century skills through projects involving the community and the local cattle industry. Fifth grade students purchase, raise, and sell calves to earn a profit, while learning by doing with the help of the community, use of technology, and creative approaches to solving problems.

“It is incredible that a small rural school from Kansas can be the Grand Prize winner!” exclaimed Pam Bevan, Principal, Chase County Elementary School. “I am very proud of our students, staff, and community. This goes to show that no matter how the odds may be stacked against you, when you always give your best effort, good things will happen.”

Rachel Matile’s fifth grade class raises cattle to help teach required standards and foster 21st-century skills.

“This project requires complex decision making, problem solving, and cooperation,” Matile said. “These kids are taking responsibility for purchasing the calves, doing chores during the school days and on weekends, and eventually selling them for a profit at the local sale barn. They're applying math, science, and problem-solving skills along the way as they purchase feed, keep track of expenses, make needed repairs to the barn, and face whatever situation comes along.

“Communication skills are required in everything they do, as they document successes and challenges every day. The kids work with real ranchers, and local feed and hardware stores where they must demonstrate consistent communication skills in person, on the phone, and in written correspondence.”

According to Britten Follett, Vice President of Marketing at Follett School Solutions, the Chase County Elementary program demonstrates true innovation in preparing students for life beyond the classroom. “Written and oral communication skills, real-world math and science, and technology skills are just a few of the specific standards students are meeting as they raise their calves. The way this program involves the community and engages students in complex problem solving thoroughly impressed our judges,” Follett said.

Bevan said winning the Follett Challenge’s top prize will allow Chase County Elementary — challenged by budgetary constraints as many schools are today — to develop a Makerspace (a work space where students create, learn, collaborate, and explore) and stock it with resources from Follett. “We also plan to build up our library with books for reading instruction and Lightbox™ materials to support our science and social studies curriculum,” Bevan said.

“Without the Follett Challenge,” Matile added, “the Makerspace room we envision would never come to fruition.”

Last month, the Follett Challenge announced Chase County Elementary was one of three semifinalists along with Highland Junior High School in Mesa, Ariz., and Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, Fla. The other two schools each earn $30,000 in Follett products and services.

Follett Challenge entrants must complete an online application and submit a video describing their program. The contest rewards groundbreaking educational programs by seeking applications illustrating critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration. All K-12 schools/districts, public and private, in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to apply.

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