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Building tetrahedron unites FMS students, staff

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By Tom Wilmoth

For the past several months, a school-wide project at Forest Middle School has been uniting all of the students together with one goal. The result: a 9-foot-tall tetrahedron that the students put together last Wednesday.

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    “We began to look at building this giant tetrahedron and tying it in with the math SOLs that (the students) were learning,” stated Nancy Young, a library media specialist at the school. “Every student in the school has actually made an individual tetrahedron to put into this project.”
    More than 1,000 of those individual tetrahedrons—triangular pyramids—were put together to construct the final project. The effort started out of  a desire to promote reading to the school’s students.
    As part of a year-long incentive through Virginia Readers Choice Books, students have been reading through a list of 10 award-winning books since last summer. One of those books included “All of the Above” by Shelley Pearsall. That book, inspired by true events, served as the impetus of Forest Middle School’s project.
    Young said in the book, a group of inner-city students are motivated to learn math by building giant tetrahedron structures in an attempt to set a world record. When Paul Webb, FMS’s algebra readiness coach, heard about the book, he said he had built similar structures with students before.
    The idea for the school-wide project  was put in motion.
    “It’s been a journey,” Young said. “The idea is that we are all  individuals but also part of a whole.”
    The project was incorporated into math, art, history and language arts classes.
     It was tied in with writing activities in language arts, and a life skills class made a chocolate cake like was mentioned in the book. Science classes performed experiments that went along with some of the activities in the book.
    “It was a cross-curricular activity. It promoted reading,” Young said.
    More than 200 of the school’s students have already read the book. Planning for building the tetrahedron began before Christmas and students began making their own individual pyramids in January.
    “It’s been a fun experience and has united our school,” Young said. “It’s been a community effort. Everybody has been on board with it.”
    Students enjoyed the opportunity.
    “The project is almost the same thing as in the book,” eighth grader Steven McKim stated.” The book was inspiring because of all they had to go through to get it done.” McKim made several individual tetrahedrons that became part of the finished project. He put some of his favorite activities—football, basketball and supporting Virginia Tech—on his tetrahedrons.
    Seventh grader Robert Bartnett had fun being a part of the project. “I just love math and everything to do with math,” he said of being involved.
    Seventh grader Kaitlyn McCauley, who came to the school in January, was able to use the project as a chance to make friends. “It’s been really fun getting to know people,” she said. “It is aggravating at times. Everything has to be so precise.”
    And looking at each individual tetrahedron has provided a chance to get to know other students. “I’ve definitely learned a lot more about people through this project,” McCauley said. “We worked all together to get this done.”