Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cranston gets a makeover

IT SAYS IT ALL: Mayor Allan Fung poses with Victor Roman and Kerri Salerno after announcing that they’d created the winning slogan for the city of Cranston.

Cranston Herald
June 10, 2010
All text and photos by Jen Cowart

On Thursday, June 3, Mayor Allan Fung arrived at the NEL/CPS Construction Career Academy to choose a new slogan and logo to market the City of Cranston. The exciting part: both were created by students.

The first place winner for the new Cranston City logo was Alexx Gonsalves, a student from the class of 2012.

Declaring the slogan, “Proud Past, Promising Future,” Victor Roman and Kerri Salerno were first place winners in that category.

Classmate Taylor Casale, also from the class of 2012, created both the second place logo and slogan, “Cranston skies have no limit.”

The announcement of the winners was the culminating event in a process that spanned the entire school year at NEL/CPS.

“It started last spring when we had our annual project presentation day,” said science teacher Dr. Joel Gluck.

The students had researched a community in Ohio, visited the area as part of their research, and created a scale model of the city.

“The mayor came and saw all of the students’ projects on display and he said asked me if he thought our students could do a similar project locally, and come up with a slogan and a logo for the City of Cranston as part of next year’s project,” said Gluck.

Dr. Gluck assured Mayor Fung that the students at NEL/CPS could step up to such a task, and he began outlining a project plan for the 2009-2010 school year that combined research with hands-on work.

Ultimately, the project, which was called “Crancot: Crossing Cultures,” was a problem based learning project in which the students researched the city of Cranston, its history, its population and its diverse cultural makeup. From there, they created a scaled model representation of the city along with a central multicultural gathering place.

The name, “Crancot” was taken from the Orlando Disney attraction, Epcot, which also showcases a wide variety of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Once Dr. Gluck had created the project, Dr. Mike Silvia, executive director of the NEL/CPS, decided that a faculty member was needed to serve as project manager.

Jennifer DeGregorio took the reigns from Gluck and led the rest of the staff and students on the path to completing the project.

“The students were asked a question: ‘If you were to design a community in the City of Cranston to accommodate the needs of diverse cultures, what would it look like?’” DeGregorio said.

Teachers took on tasks that related to their area of curriculum. In English classes, for example, students interviewed members of the Cranston Senior Center and wrote biographies about them. They also used what they learned to add to their ongoing collection of statistics about the history of the city, such as finding the oldest person in Cranston.

The focus areas were western Cranston, Knightsville, Pawtuxet, Thornton, Oak Lawn, Edgewood and Woodridge.

As the students progressed in their research, they realized the depth of the project they’d been asked to undertake.

They created attractions and built scale models of them, later building bridges to connect them to the community center. Staffing these locations was another task, as the students created job postings, salary guides, tourist activities and more.

To make the project more authentic, students were required to create “Crancot” using only the materials and resources provided by the Resources Recycling for RI Education.

“The hardest part was the inside,” said Kara Herbert, who helped her group work on the daycare building in Crancot.

It was clear from examining the final product that Herbert and her group paid attention to the details.

The daycare center included a basketball court, swimming pool, and even an outbuilding for the children to use the bathroom when they were wet from the pool.

Project coordinators touted the benefits of the project and the soft skills needed to accomplish it.

“We were at each other’s throats a little bit but we learned to work with it. That’s something we’d need in the real world,” said student Max Dinerman, who helped work on the community center. “Our school is preparing us to go out and get jobs by teaching us the soft skills that we need.”

Art teacher Christine Underbaggage explained that the students could choose to work on their logos and slogans either independently or in groups of two or three.

They began developing their Crancot concepts at the start of the second semester.

“By the start of the fourth quarter they were enlarging and perfecting their designs and adding color,” Underbaggage said.

Mayor Allan Fung arrived at the school on June 2 for an advanced look at the logos and slogans, using the time before the official Project Day to mull over the entries in his mind.

“In the time I’ve been Mayor, I’ve been so impressed with all of the talent that each and every one of you display,” Fung said as he addressed the students on Project Day. “You’ve come up with a new way to combine all of your talents and you came up with a new logo and slogan for our city.”

Mayor Fung went on to tell the students how difficult it was to choose the ultimate winner for both the logo and the slogan. He announced Casale, Gonslves, Roman and Salerno as the winners, stating that they’d be receiving monetary awards as well as having their winning designs on display in City Hall over the summer.

Garden City Town: The First Place winning entry for the logo contest

Dr. Silvia summed up the students’ experiences with this year’s project.

“Today is all about creativity,” he said. “When you put our students in their comfort zones, you see what they can truly produce.”

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