Canstruction at Innovation Academy teaches math, engineering and helping others

Rick Wagner • Dec 27, 2018 at 6:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — For the third year in a row, Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee eighth-graders are doing Canstruction projects to be showcased during STEM night, which is scheduled for Jan. 10.

It could be the last Canstruction at IA, which the Sullivan County Board of Education is pondering closing in May to save money in the 2019-20 school year. However, school system officials said a vote on the proposal to close IA, Blountville Middle and the middle school part of Sullivan Gardens K-8 likely will not occur at the Jan. 8 BOE meeting.

The deadline for donating cans to the cause is Jan. 9. Four different teams or groups of students will do a Canstruction project. The goal is 1,000 cans and donations had exceeded 400 by Friday.

Seventh and eighth grade teachers Ryan Lovelace, science; Tim Argenbright, math; Dani Webb, English language arts (ELA) and social studies; and Brandee Bridges, ELA and social studies, are helping students with Canstruction. Students used computer-aided design to draw out plans for their creations, using math and engineering among other skills.

“This is the way we stock our food pantry,” Lovelace said of the food collected for the students and families of IA and Holston Middle, where IA is housed as a school within a school.

This year’s theme is the industrial revolution, and one group is building a hydraulic press out of the cans. Any leftovers will go to Second Harvest Food Bank. All told, 31 students are split among four groups, although one student, Chloe Cress, is not participating because she is being treated for cancer at St. Jude 
Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Eighth-grader Jonathan Clark of Kingsport and other students sent out emails to encourage people to support the program through canned food donations.

“It’s just a nice program,” Clark said. “We’re also here learning and helping people in the community.”

He explained in the email: “Canstruction is an annual project in which students are given a time in history and are tasked with creating an invention from that time. Once the invention has been decided, students will research who invented it, when was it invented, where was it invented, and why it was invented.”

Cans on the outside that are visible are supposed to be Food City ValuTime Small Whole White Potatoes, Food Club Original Applesauce, ValuTime Whole Kernel and Golden Corn. However, any standard sized cans can be used inside the projects and all standard cans will be accepted.

As for the possibility that IA, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school will close, Clark said that potential was “a little annoying” to him and other IA students. 

“I think the sixth- and seventh-graders deserve to finish the eighth grade here,” said Clark, who plans to attend Sullivan South High School in the fall of 2019 and then would go on to attend the new career technical education-emphasizing West Ridge High School when it opens, which is projected his junior year starting in the fall of 2021.

IA started in 2012 as a joint program of Kingsport City Schools and Sullivan County Schools in the former Brookside Elementary in Bloomingdale. Kingsport dropped out two years later, and the program became a school and moved to Holston Middle in 2014. It has about 150 students.  

IA and other Sullivan County schools reopen Jan. 7, but Lovelace said that donated cans can be left at Indian Springs Baptist Church over the holiday break with a note saying they are for Canstruction. 

For more information, email [email protected] or [email protected]

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