Middle College bench project a big hit

Middle College bench project a big hit

Monday, June 24, 2013

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College Director of Communications
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Steve Koehler
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At first glance, a simple park bench doesn't appear to be much of a symbol for taking a stand on world issues.

But a final project by this spring's students at OTC's Middle College did just that - transforming a wooden bench into statements on local and world issues.

This spring, students in the Middle College program created benches from scratch that carried messages ranging from hunger to water quality to diversity.

The students' work recently was unveiled at a luncheon and the benches were donated to various groups to put on display.

"When other students at the end of the school year are often disengaged in relevant learning, the Middle College staff developed a creative, cross-curricular six-day unit that focused on the impact people can have when they get involved in important local or global issues," said LaRaine Bauer, dean of special academic programs who oversees the Middle College program.

The themes and bench recipients were:

World Hunger Bench: Ozark Food Harvest

Water Bench:  Watershed Committee Center

Deforestation Bench:  Botanical Center at Nathanael Greene Park

Equality Bench:  Rare Breed Youth Outreach Center

Anti-Bullying Bench:  Robberson Elementary

"To know that the students in Middle College were aware of the botanical center and thought of us as a worthy ambassador for helping to carry the message to 'stop deforestation' is humbling," said Katie Steinhoff, Botanical Center Coordinator for Springfield-Greene County Parks.

The students designed, built and created the messages on the benches. In addition, another group of students documented the work with pictures and video that was shown as a recent presentation.

"Social change is a difficult concept for a student to wrap their mind around at the young age of 16 or 17 years of age, but our juniors in Middle College spent a week examining social issues, identifying a problem and highlighting it by building benches," Bauer said.

"Each bench had a special message painted on the bench as a billboard to make others stop and think when they rested a few moments on our bench."