Featured Teacher: Mrs. Smith at South Heart

Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 8:19 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SOUTH HEART, N.D. (KFYR) - At the end of the week, a group of students from South Heart will pack up the STEM project they have been working on all school year and head to Washington, D.C. They’re the reigning champions of the Future City Competition in North Dakota, now heading to nationals. The kids are no doubt impressive, and this week’s Featured Teacher would prefer all the spotlight to be on them. But they told us how Jerrica Smith has helped them gain so much success.

Jerrica Smith teaches 6th grade in South Heart, but she does much more than that for the community. After the reading and science lessons are through in her classroom, the space becomes a test ground where her Future City teams get to use their STEM education designing a city that can thrive 100 years into the future.

“They create all these elements that I’ve never even thought of growing up,” Mrs. Smith said.

Their model is made of bottle caps representing power generators and pieces of Mrs. Smith’s sacrificed classroom decor to illustrate the agricultural system they have designed to combat climate change. They’re humble representations of many hours of strategic planning and research.

“They have to take into consideration the zoning, what your building materials are, what your energy sources are, how you’re going to deal with sewer,” she explains.

This team of 6th, 7th and 8th graders is the best at what they do.

“Knowing that we’re kind of the team to beat, it helped to motivate us to do better,” Zach Obrien, 8th grade, said of their success at this year’s regional competition.

When North Dakota opened the Future City Competition to schools four years ago, South heart won it year after year. This year, their ticket to nationals isn’t hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m quite excited and I think we’re going to do really well there,” Shayden Moe, 8th grade, said about their upcoming trip.

They’re going to Washington, D.C. in person rather than over Zoom. And the town of 400 is going to head-to-head, and face-to-face, with schools from other states and even countries with far more resources.

“They’re charter schools or science schools. They’ll use Future City as an actual course you can learn in class. And for us, here in South Heart, it’s an extra-curricular. And I am battling with elementary schedules, junior high schedules, basketball. So we don’t get to practice until like 6:30 at night.”

Mrs. Smith juggles the schedules to find practice time at least three times a week and some added crunch time on the weekends, when needed. But it’s all paid off in more ways than one.

“Seeing those aha moments that they have. Or those moments where they are teaching each other or collaborating effectively that we can’t even see some adults do. That’s really impressive to me,” she said.

The school also took on fundraising for the big trip through bake sales and fundraisers at basketball games. They still have a little way to go to reach their goal.

The team leaves Bismarck early Friday morning for their flight to D.C., with the competition extending through the weekend.