By Shane Richard Bell
Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press
Blake Garcia, a fourth-grader at Athol Elementary, could not get Carrie Underwood out of his mind. All he could think about while at school was the glamorous country star and how he’d be hearing her sing live that very night in Spokane.
So when Coeur d’Alene Press representatives Nicole Choquette and Tiffany Morrett presented the Design an Ad program to him that day, it was no surprise the first person he wanted to design an ad for was Carrie Underwood.
Unfortunately for Blake, the country star was not one of the advertisers his class was commissioned to create an ad for in the Coeur d’Alene Press’ Design an Ad Contest, which challenges elementary through high school students to individually apply classroom lessons to the real world by designing their own ad for a North Idaho business.
This year, 1,800 students like Blake participated in the program, drawing support from 28 schools, 47 teachers and 105 businesses.
“Because we get the Coeur d’Alene Press in the classroom, they are interested in the community newspaper,” said Blake’s teacher, Danielle Scott. “The Design an Ad program really opens them up to a world they didn’t know about.”
Pizza parties offered to every participating class as well as three cash prizes (1st place- $200, 2nd place- $100, and 3rd place- $50) also provide students a real-world incentive.
Bryson Mari, another fourth-grader in Danielle Scott’s class, was at first more excited about the free pizza party than the assignment.
“I didn’t really want to do it at first because it seemed like a lot of work,” Bryson said. “But in the end, it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.”
Danielle Scott could see the program’s results in her students.
“It was cool to watch them because it’s a higher-level assignment,” she said. “They really have to think about the business, and it’s probably one they’ve never been to so they have to research the business and find out where it’s located. They even went on to Google maps to see what the places looked like. They had fun once they got into it.”
Every student is given the opportunity to make his or her own contribution to that business, the advertiser, and the greater community through the Coeur d’Alene Press.
Grace Gregory, 9, was particularly excited about drawing pictures and looking up information for her ad.
“It was really fun, and yes, I totally learned something,” Grace said.
“The Design an Ad program opens their minds to the possibilities of life,” said Scott. “If they’ve never been exposed to it, it won’t be something they’d even think about.”
Last week Danielle Scott spoke to her students about the importance of direction in deciding one’s career field.
“I asked my kids, ‘Where do you see yourself going? It’s good for my kids to have goals to think about. And the more they’re exposed to, the more choices they will have.”
The greatest lesson most kids learn isn’t something they expect, she said.
“It’s problem solving. That’s the big direction we’re going for, is teaching kids how to solve problems, and where the careers are going to be, because we don’t even know about some of the jobs that will be out there when they’re looking for jobs,” she said. “And that’s what they had to do for the Design an Ad program. They got this information and they had to learn about what to do with it.”