Originally created 11/22/06

Don't peel it - it's for a grade



Though edible, the potatoes Evans Middle School pupils are taking home with them for Thanksgiving are not for eating.

Through a cross-subject project, more than 80 seventh-graders at the school adopted potatoes to treat as their own children.

"The thought of eating mashed potatoes or french fries now makes me sick," said proud potato baby parent Felicia Stewart, 14, of her purple-knit, hat-clad spud John.

Felicia must keep a daily diary of her parenting adventures with John for her English class. Through her math class, she earns a fake income with a faux job and must account for potato/child-related expenses.

"I've had to spend $150 twice because he dropped my cell phone," she said while holding up a small wicker basket containing John.

Though pupils were allowed to name their own potatoes, all other aspects of the child-rearing process occurred by chance.

Jobs, along with the appropriate income, were chosen by pupils out of hat. Each school day, pupils also must draw from a hat an unforeseen expense, such as buying winter clothes, paying doctor bills, purchasing diapers and so on.

"We're creating real-life applications for what they're learning in math," said seventh-grade math teacher Brian Reeder. "Studies show that when you can illustrate how math applies in a student's real life they're more apt to retain what they learn."

For social studies class, pupils conducted Internet research on their potato's name and each baby contracted an illness pupils must research for their science class, Evans Middle English teacher Terry Wimburn said.

Ms. Wimburn developed the idea for potato babies and said she continually reinforces with her pupils how serious they should take the project.

"I ran into one of my students (last) weekend at Sconyers (restaurant) and asked him where his baby was," Ms. Wimburn said. "He very sheepishly told me he left it in the car. He showed up to class this morning with a $100 check (from his fake project checking account) as his fine for leaving his baby unattended."

Felicia admitted to receiving some odd looks whenever she ventured out with John, but, nonetheless, has enjoyed the experience.

"I took him to church and one guy threatened to bake him," she said. "I would never let anybody hurt him."

Aside from the real-life applications pupils can learn through the project, Ms. Wimburn said it is ultimately about making learning enjoyable.

"This is a way for students to learn responsibility in a way that is interesting and fun," she said. "Anytime you can make the learning environment entertaining, the kids are going to be more receptive to what you have to teach them."

Though she believes many of the pupils had fun with the project, Ms. Wimburn doesn't discount that many of the potato babies are likely fated to become an ingredient in potato salad.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.