LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Even as this school year winds down students at a Lee's Summit elementary school already are looking forward to this fall when they hope to have a newly remodeled school library.
And when that happens they'll have this week's FOX 4 Young Achievers to thank for getting the project underway with prize money from their champion film making.
This spring the students in the ASPIRE gifted education program at Mason Elementary School have transformed their classroom into a cave. As they've done it, they've learned about cave creatures and habitat, pollution threats, people who've lived in caves and much more.
"They do a lot of research and then they problem-solve and work as a team to build this giant cave in our classroom," said Mason Elementary ASPIRE teacher Jenny Reidlinger. "And then they'll take other kids on tours through the cave to teach them about caves."
Mason's ASPIRE students do big projects like this often and in recent years have created an ocean ecosystem, Egyptian pyramids and a rain forest in their classroom.
"We always try to pick a very motivational, exciting topic for the kids to study," said Reidlinger, "something they can really go in-depth with."
Yes, there's always an exciting learning project going on in Mason Elementary's ASPIRE class and one of them got these students national attention and big money for the school this year.
The ASPIRE kids are quite the little filmmakers and with school equipment and editing software, plus their own creative talents, they produced and starred in a nifty short video about a Mother Nature character revealing a barren, dystopian world without trees if we don't protect the environment.
"We had to go on the computer and edit it all and add the special effects of how Mother Nature came and went," said Mason 4th grader Selah Wheeler.
"We wrote the script, we filmed it and we were in front of the camera," said Mason 5th grader Kaitlyn Guest. "And then we edited it and we presented it to all the classes."
The production placed among the top 12 finalists and won $2,500 in prize money in a national student video competition called Trees Rock sponsored by the Scotties facial tissue company.
"It's cool that we can get the whole United States to watch our video," said Kaitlyn."
"Yeah," said Selah.
"And they can see our viewpoint of it as students and what we think of it," said Kaitlyn. "Because usually it's only adults that get their message across."
Now these award-winning young filmmakers have decided to do something very important with the prize money. They are starting a project to remodel and upgrade their school library and they are busy coming up with ideas and ready to do some of the work themselves.
"I think they feel it's the way to make a big impact on the whole school," said Reidlinger. "They really wanted to impact the most number of students possible. And they knew the library is the one area of our school every child and every teacher uses. And it's probably the most needy area of our school as far as renovations go."
"I think it's going to be great because it's not just going to stay for a little bit," said Kaitlyn, "that it's going to help for a really long time for Mason in the library."
"It feels really good to be only the ages that we are and the grades that we are in," says Selah, "to be so nationally..."
"Recognized," Kaitlyn continued. "We're making such a big impact at our school, too."
"They really have the same mind in wanting to use their knowledge for the betterment of society or their school or the environment," said Reidlinger. "And they're very motivated to make a difference."
Small but mighty.
The kids and teacher Jenny Reidlinger are taking the lead in continuing efforts to raise even more money for the school library renovation project. They're going after a school district grant and they've entered another national contest, this one for prize money specifically for school improvement projects.
Meantime, the Mason ASPIRE students this spring also took a major prize for another video they entered in the Kansas City Film Fest Reel Spirit competition for young filmmakers.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.