Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Kids study Deerfield sprawl

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

        DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP — Elementary school students are taking on an adult problem and hope to have some helpful suggestions for this southern Warren County township.

        Columbia Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Sherry Michalak heads a “virtual middle school” project that asks 12 sixth-graders to study urban sprawl. Students chose three sites to study in Deerfield and Mason; the developing former 20-Mile Farm on Montgomery Road, the former woodland area across the street, and a site near Christ Church on Western Row Road.

        Funded by a $65,000 grant from Ohio School Net, students use laptops, digital cameras and a Web site created by Ms. Michalak to define urban sprawl and its consequences and to create visual representations of their sites' past, present and future. Students in the “virtual” class began in February to “meet” via their computers for on-line discussions, one hour twice a week.

        Students are to incorporate sprawl solutions into their project. Though not well into the solution phase, Matt Schnee, 12, and classmate Mike Micha lak suggest developing fewer natural sites or creating more nature areas.

        “It'll probably take a few years, but then a lot of places will be destroyed,” Matt said. “It's affecting the environment. It's killing the animals.”

        “This is a real-life topic that they could see happening around them and be able to actually contribute to society,” Ms. Michalak said.

        Students, who don't get school credit for the project, are encouraged to talk with local officials. Ms. Michalak said students would create a Power Point presentation by the end of April that she hopes they can give to Deerfield Township trustees.

        Trustee President Barbara Reed said new housing is just a result of meeting demand, but admitted there are areas of congestion nuisance such as the Fields Ertel-Montgomery Road area off Interstate 71. She said trustees would hear the elementary children's suggestions.

        “Anytime a resident comes up with a good idea, certainly we would always entertain it. Why wouldn't we?” Ms. Reed said. “Whether it comes from a 10-year-old or an 80-year-old, a good idea is a good idea.”


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