When Nick Davros’ biology class at South Mecklenburg High School finished the Advanced Placement exam a month before school ended, he found a creative way to occupy time.
Instead of assigning busy work or playing board games, Davros picked a project. His students had to write children’s books, which they would read to elementary school students.
There were a few rules: the stories had to incorporate elementary biology concepts and the pictures had to be hand-illustrated. But Davros left most of the assignment open to encourage his students’ creativity.
Davros’ two AP biology classes broke into groups of two or more, and from there he said they chose a theme, invented characters and developed a storyline.
“At first they were a little uncertain, but once they picked their theme, they really started to enjoy it,” Davros said. “They took it further than what I would’ve expected.”
This was Davros’ first year teaching AP Biology. In previous years, with a different instructor, he said students worked on a college-related project after AP exams were done.
Davros said his assignment was inspired by a book project he did in high school. He said he introduced his own twist on the project by tying in N.C. elementary science standards and having his students read the books to the elementary schoolers.
“I wanted to be able to give back to the community in some way,” he said.
When the books were completed – 14 total – Davros organized a field trip to Beverly Woods Elementary School so his students could read their stories to kindergarteners and first graders.
“(The elementary school students) loved it,” he said, “They asked so many questions.”
Layne Garner, a kindergarten teacher at Beverly Woods, said she was impressed by the high school students’ effort.
“They stepped up to the plate and went above and beyond the call of duty to make these books,” she said.
Garner said they did an excellent job relating science objectives to a younger audience with their handmade books.
“I’ve never seen children more engaged,” she said. “Some of these seniors and juniors changed their voices, they were very animated.”
Garner said science and social studies sometimes fall by the wayside because so much focus is put on reading and writing.
“We always say we need to step it up,” she said. “(The books) were just a great way to integrate science into our writing and into our math.”
Garner said her students wrote thank you notes to the high schoolers to practice their handwriting.
One note read: “Your books were wondrnis and sintastic! I loved hearing you read! You are the best!”
Davros said his students went beyond what he imagined for the assignment. He said he was especially impressed by the brightly colored illustrations and creative stories.
Davros’ students loved the freedom of the project, and the opportunity to get involved with the community outside of South Meck.
“It’s the first assignment I’ve been given where I was able to see the direct impact of what we were doing, instead of just turning something in and getting a grade,” said Natalie Brown.
Brown, a senior, said her group’s story featured a Golden Retriever puppy who was trying to find his parents. In his search, he met many dogs of other breeds, such as Puddles the Pug and Cleo the Corgi.
“We used our book to teach the children how to identify different breeds or types within a species,” she said. “I thought it was great how we were able to get the kids involved; they were really engaged with the story.”
Senior Andrea Noh’s group created a story called “Journey Through the Aquarium.” She said they created 14 different fish and gave them names, such as Eddie the Eel and Peter the Puffer Fish.
“I think (the elementary schoolers) really liked it,” Noh said. “A lot of them had favorite characters and shared their personal trips to the aquarium.”
Noh said her favorite aspect of the project was seeing the book come together, once she and her group members finished their individual portions. She also said she loved reading the book to the kids.
Once the books are bound, Davros said he plans to donate them to the school’s library.
“The highlight of it all was when we got on the bus to ride home, (the students) said ‘Can we do this more often, we’d love to go back,’” Davros said. “It wasn’t just reading sharing time, but truly a learning experience for everybody involved.”