STEAMIFY winners from River Ridge Elementary School

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– A Columbia County gifted teacher couldn’t bear the idea of her 5th graders finishing out their year without the chance to present their winning STEAMIFY entry.

It was supposed to have taken place at the Morris Museum of Art, in downtown Augusta. That was, of course, cancelled with the pandemic. But, hey, these kids are problem solvers- and they found another way to make it happen!

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It’s been different for these 5th graders finishing out the school year at home. Just ask Kashvi Boga.

“We don’t have the teachers to explain everything like they usually do and when we’re learning something new we don’t get the first hand experience that we usually did.”

Katelyn Dietert says there’s a benefit.

“I enjoy this because I get to spend more time with my family but I’m still doing the work. The only thing that I miss is spending time with friends and doing the hands-on stuff. But the good thing is teachers are dong Google meets so we get to be with everyone.”

Their teacher, Dawn Jeffers, knows 5th grade is a big year for these River Ridge Elelmentary School students.

“And this is going to be kind of a milestone for you to remember that school was shut down. You couldn’t go to school but we still found a way to have your project.”

She’s encouraging them now, before they present their end of the year winning STEAMIFY project to a virtual audience.

“These 3 are so creative, the call themselves the Poeteers. Instead of the puppeteers, the poeteers!”

Tomris Qaradagli jokingly interrupts:

“Ms. Jeffers, now you’re always excited about alot of things, but when you came to the Steamify you were like that –times 10– you were like, OH MY GOSH!!!”

The big project for STEAMIFY had been based on a class learning trip to the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC, and a challenge to write a poem from the perspective of an object inside the 19th century mansion.

“So they competed against 13 other teams in the CSRA and they were chosen first place. And so because of that win, they were given experiences.”

Their “experience” was to work with Lucinda Clark, founder of the Poetry Matters Project.

“Our mission is to build community connections through collaboration under the guise of poetry.”

Then they put together a poetry reading for an audience, that would including a big time wordsmith: the Poet Laureate of Columbia, SC. They talked with Dr. Ed Madden about his poetry.

“It’s useful, it gets us a story or a message, or language but at the same time there’s this excess beauty and rhythm and song and sound that has nothing to do, in some ways, with the purpose of the lanuage!’

Before “The Poeteers” presented their original piece, they did a reading of Dr. Madden’s first published poem, for him, and had the chance to ask questions about creative process.

And then shared their original poem, “The Depressed Duster” with a virtual audience. Not from a stage at the Morris Museum, but from their homes, via the internet…. something that hypothetical duster, buried for decades in the basement at the Biltmore House, never -ever- could have imagined!

WEB EXTRA: Watch The Depressed Duster here

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