Students take their ‘Dreams to Reality’

WILLMAR -- The student projects at DREAM Technical Academy in Willmar can take all kinds of shapes, from art to cooking to hunting.Students had a chance to show off their work Tuesday at the charter school's "Dreams to Reality" night. The school ...

Dreams to Reality Night
Micah Peterson explains bow hunting. Some students gave demonstrations while others staged presentations during Dreams to Reality Night Tuesday at DREAM Technical Academy in Willmar. (GARY MILLER | TRIBUNE)

WILLMAR - The student projects at DREAM Technical Academy in Willmar can take all kinds of shapes, from art to cooking to hunting.
Students had a chance to show off their work Tuesday at the charter school’s “Dreams to Reality” night. The school uses project-based learning to help students meet the state’s academic standards.
Students offered demonstrations and presentations of their projects for the public at the school on the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar.
Zion Alston, 16, a sophomore from New London, offered samples of the bacon, egg and biscuit bake he wants to begin selling at the school to the students and staff. Those who took a sample were also asked to fill out a survey.
“I cook all my own food at my house,” he said. “I’ve been cooking since I was little with my grandma.”
On a scale of 1 to 5, Zion’s breakfast concoction was consistently rated a 4 or 5. “Everyone who eats my food usually likes it,” he said.
For his work, he said, he could earn credits in culinary arts, science, chemistry and career exploration.
Micah Peterson had a display of archery bows, from more traditional-looking recurve bows to his compound bow. He talked about his love of bow hunting and had a display running on his computer.
Micah, 15, a sophomore from rural Lake Lillian, said he has earned health and science credits for his time spent in the woods and his work studying deer habitat and tracking weather.
In the presentation room off the cafeteria, Brandon Koshenina talked about airsoft sports, something in which he’s participated for longer than six years. In airsoft, participants use replicas of actual firearms that fire plastic BBs to play military-style games.
Brandon, 18, a senior from Kandiyohi, talked about the types of guns available for airsoft games and the various accessories that are also available. They include apparel, scopes and lasers. Grenade launchers and airsoft grenades are also available.
Two major tips he offered: Always transport a weapon in a gun bag as the airsoft replicas are easily mistaken for the real thing, and always wear eye protection.
For his project, he said, he researched the history of airsoft sports, and researched the history related to some of the guns. He also looked at budgeting for a gun he wants.
Re-enactors of wars of the 20th Century often use airsoft guns, and replicas are available for weapons used during the world wars and in Korea and Vietnam.
Students with displays and presentations answered questions from the public and from school staff during the evening.
Brandon was asked if the airsoft games help him prepare for service in the military. He said he plans to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserves after graduation.
It does, he said. The games help him learn military tactics and they require physical fitness. They use military hand signals and use the military alphabet in their codes.
After his presentation, he said, he was able to earn credits in physical fitness, math and history.
Teacher Jake Wittman, a biology/science adviser at the school, said the questions are to help the students feel comfortable speaking to people about their projects, and “we use it as an opportunity to see how well they understand what they have done.”
Students are encouraged to propose their own project ideas, he said, and the staff helps them develop the ideas and find ways to address academic standards.
“We’re trying to build a strong learning community,” he said. “Students should expect we’ll come and talk to them and ask questions.”
Other topics at this week’s presentation night included designing an SUV, 3D animation, art and poetry, veganism and one student’s trip to Uganda.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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