In Dr. Jing Williams’ ELED 360: K-8 Social Science Methods class, students learn by doing. Next Thursday, Feb. 23, in fact, that learning will be on display during “I Spy, Patriotism,” a photography exhibit created by the students to honor area veterans. The exhibition, which will raise money for VFW Post #3061, happens Thursday, Feb. 23, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. in USD’s MUC Ballroom C. Everyone is urged to attend.

This is the fourth project benefitting the VFW Williams has created in her methods class. Last fall, students created the “In Flanders Field” art exhibition, raising more than $1,000 for the VFW post. A year ago, students in the course pursued the “Clay County’s Fallen” research contest. Williams’ first project for the class, in the fall of 2015, was the “In Gratitude for Your Service” writing contest.

Williams enjoys creating a new project for the students in her class to pursue each semester, she admits.

“Even though it takes a lot of time to create something new, I enjoy the planning process,” Williams says. “Knowing that my students will be teaching elementary level children, the project must be something that they can implement in their own classrooms in the future. It has to be fun and educative. In fact, my husband has contributed a lot to what I do. He is such an inspiration. We brainstormed different topics. … [This year], we both liked the “I Spy” theme, as we all know it is a game that young children love. At the same time, I had a ready-made lesson on how to teach abstract social studies concepts to young children, so there came the second part of this year’s theme: patriotism.”

“I Spy, Patriotism” will feature 50 photo collages created by the 48 students in the class, by Williams, and by her colleague, Dr. Daniel Mourlam, who assisted this semester by teaching the students in Williams’ class how to use free online tools to create their collages. Each collage is a unique take on how the individual views patriotism through the lens of veterans, explains Williams.

“I only require them to make their photo collage to honor veterans and they must take their own photos,” says Williams. “In terms of how they will do it, I leave it to them.”

Thursday’s show will feature each digital collage printed and framed. A projector will also be running featuring the images from the collages in a digital slideshow. Printed copies of each collage will be available for purchase (there is no set purchase price -- you decide how much you’d like to donate). All donations will go to benefit Post 3061.

Andy Howe, Quartermaster for VFW Post 3061, says the money raised through these projects helps fund the post’s efforts to meet the needs of student veterans. Some of the money also benefits other community service projects Post 3061 engages in, including their baseball team sponsorship and the Special Olympics, to name a few.

“Our post has been very enthusiastic in supporting Dr. Williams’ projects,” explains Howe. “We appreciate the way she is working to focus her teaching students on someday teaching their own students about the service of veterans in their own communities. Dr. Williams has worked very hard to bring veterans of different age groups together to present to her classes and expose her students to the various experiences and often finding that many veterans have much in common, regardless of the era during which they served. We also feel that her work has help our post connect with our USD student veterans better than our efforts in the past have.”

In addition to benefitting Post 3061, Williams hopes that participating in this project will have a lasting effort on her students.

“I do this project with my students in the ELED 360: K-8 Social Science Methods class because I want my students to understand that the goal of social studies education is to cultivate young children’s ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good,” she says. “The purpose of this class is to teach future elementary school teachers how to teach social studies. They learn different engaging methods by doing it in my class. This particular project has multiple layers. It teaches future teachers: a. how to teach about wars from a human perspective; b. how to integrate art with social studies; c. how to integrate technology with social studies; and d. how to contribute to the local community. This is to cultivate future generations’ civic competence.”

Williams says there are many people to thank for their help in making this year’s project possible, including members of the USD Veterans Club, who will be providing free pizza to attendees at Thursday’s exhibition. The Student Veteran Resource Center, meanwhile, will provide greeters at the event. Of course, members of VFW Post 3061 will be on hand to enjoy the exhibition and to mingle with participants and viewers.

Williams is hopeful the exhibition will raise a generous amount of money for Post 3061.

“No matter how much we raise this time, though, I will be proud of my students, as I know they are very engaged in this project and they have shown me incredible creativity and passion,” she says.

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