Big idea

Students from the project-based learning class at Athens Renaissance School gather for a photograph at the Exchange Building on Marion Street to plan the Athens Big Idea Contest for city school students.

Do you have an idea that would make Athens a better place or improve the lives of the people who live here?

A project-based learning class at Athens Renaissance School hopes their fellow city school students — and maybe city leaders — will have several ideas for an upcoming contest they are launching.

The districtwide Athens Big Idea Contest is tentatively set for April 14, 2020, at the new Athens High School auditorium. Before that, each city school will hold a contest and choose a winner who will represent the school at the district level. There may also be a contest for community leaders on April 16, 2020, with students judging ideas.

Dr. Chris Paysinger, the teacher for the PBL class, which consists mainly of freshmen and sophomores, said submissions for the contest should either make Athens better or improve the lives of Athens residents.

"Participants may build an invention, formulate initiatives, submit development plans for use of public space, produce a video or build an app that will help improve the lives of our town and its citizens," he said.

Clubs, grades, individuals or small groups who want to compete in the contest will need to begin brainstorming this month so they can turn in their plans Dec. 12 and prepared for next year's contest. Rules and parameters for the contest will be introduced in November, and plans are due Dec. 12.

Paysinger said the premise of the citywide project is that students "use traditional content, course of study standards, learning and passion to develop a project that makes Athens a better place to live, work and play."

He said the possibilities for this project are endless, and the focal point is to see how the schools can "inspire the citizens of Athens to stimulate the idea process to help make this wonderful place better."

Teachers and others can help students refine ideas, build inventions and gather data. Paysinger said elementary academies could pursue projects that "align with their respective academies." For example, HEART Academy at Julian Newman Elementary School could "develop a health program for the city that involves parks, trails or fitness programs," he said.

The PBL class and Paysinger also want to invite community leaders to submit ideas and compete in the adult version of the contest. More information and rules with be forthcoming, Paysinger said.

In the meantime, the PBL students will be developing content to help participants with the event while also devising various ways to promote the event. The class was recently putting the finishing touches on a video explaining the contest, which will be out soon.

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