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Van Horn High School connects classrooms with real world

Posted at 5:57 PM, May 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 18:57:27-04

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — An Independence high school is connecting its classrooms to the real world.

Students at Van Horn High School are using their lesson plans to create future plans for the city.

Their project, "Lots of Love," is based on a real-life problem in the school district: homelessness.

"Statistically, one student per classroom has experienced displacement throughout their high school years," said Isabelle Munoz, a freshman at Van Horn High School.

According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Independence School District had more than 950 students who were considered homeless during the 2017-18 school year.

"A lot of people I think didn't actually know that this was a problem, and I'm glad that we informed them," sophomore Chace Todd Keillor said.

Any student that does not have a fixed, regular or adequate nighttime residence is considered homeless. Students at Van Horn High School are working on finding a solution to the problem.

"We are trying to build alternative living spaces for displaced students to not only boost attendance in our school, but also to help out in our community," Keillor said.

Using a teaching method known as project-based learning, more than 200 students combined their math, history, technology and design skills to create a plan that was presented to the Independence City Council on April 22.

"I felt really powerful, I felt like what I was doing mattered," Munoz said.

"In education, sometimes we think that all we do is hand out papers, we tell kids exactly what to do, but in this case it's amazing what you can get done when you let kids take the reigns," said Jim Oatman, an industrial arts teacher at Van Horn High School.

Currently, the city of Independence has a minimum square footage for new home construction. While that means tiny homes can't be built in the city, students are planning to work with the council to find other solutions.

"The positive side that I take away from it is the kids opened the door, if not for us, they've opened it up for someone else to build," Oatman said.

During the 2017-18 school year in the state of Missouri, the total number of homeless students enrolled in school was more than 36,000.