A PROJECT OF RURAL SCHOOLS COLLABORATIVE & NREA

Devon Barker-Hicks, Meadows Valley School, Idaho

ELA/History teacher supports community access for rural students

March 10, 2020 |
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My name is Devon Barker-Hicks and I am a middle school ELA/History teacher in the rural town of New Meadows, Idaho. I have worked at Meadows Valley School since 2007 and started teaching in 1996. I have taught in three rural school communities all in Idaho: Cottonwood Elementary, Nezperce Elementary/High school, and currently Meadows Valley. The area population ranged from 952 to 469 people.

"Teach small-Impact far," is one way our school and my teaching impacts and works with the broader community. I believe in the place-based principle of "community as classroom." We are small but we have many professionals who work with us in our classroom and in our community. For example, our city council works on joint projects with our students to foster civic engagement and community projects. Most recently, together we put in a new playground at our city park. This effort took the enthusiasm of the students, the support of the council, and many volunteers from our community. Local contractors worked hands-on with the students to help them construct the playground while learning skills in the trades. Our advantage is our smallness.

We might not have all the things a big city has to offer, but since we are small we have direct access to our community. Being able to easily access our officials, public places, and the people in our community we see the areas where students can make a difference. The students’ efforts are visible which strengths the bond between school and community. Anyone who visits our community sees projects the students have spearheaded. They might stop for a break at the playground, use the new equipment, or see the Anne Frank memorial in the park. Or they might read in the kiosks how the students improved the local campground, helped the local animal shelter, or how they built a tiny home to bring awareness to our housing problem in our valley. Students in our small school are already making a difference, a difference that will go far.

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