“Read. Play. Grow.” objective of the Honors in Action project of the Phi Theta Kappa Beta Tau Gamma chapter

Elementary students in the Family YMCA of Southeast Mississippi after-school program learn from STEAM-focused enrichment. Members of the Beta Tau Gamma Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at the Forrest County Campus of Pearl River Community College contributed a component of their Honors in Action research project, “Read. To play. Grow.” at the establishment.

Each year, PTK chapters that wish to achieve five-star status must do an HIA research project with a few themes given for direction. Projects are community-driven and provide opportunities for students to research the problem and come up with potential solutions. In the Mississippi/Louisiana area, just over half of the 50 chapters are completing an HIA project. Beta Tau Gamma has been a five-star chapter since its inception in November 2010.

The Beta Tau Gamma Chapter chose to focus on the impact of gaming on learning and literacy. The recent pandemic has impacted students around the world, with test scores dropping drastically in areas such as the Pine Belt. The use of structured and unstructured games overlaid with traditional teaching methods has been shown to enhance learning. Playing and reading are considered best practices for better learning.

“Working with the Beta Tau Gamma chapter of Phi Theta Kappa on the Forrest County campus means I can dive with curious, highly capable students into a substantive academic investigation of a community issue,” said PTK Counselor, the Dr. Terri Ruckel. “This year we have chosen a theme, ‘Play in Forward’, within the Honors in Action study subject, The Art and Science of Play. The project is even closer and dearer to me because I served on the Honors Board last year to write the program guide for our project.

A grant from the Mellon Foundation enabled the project team to implement its action component with the purchase of books for young readers. Books were distributed to YMCA after-school program participants as well as PTK students who modeled structured play.

“I believe that at least one child’s heart was stirred by the connection between reading and the series of activities we had prepared for him,” said Tobias Adams of Hattiesburg. “I vividly remember being at the science table showing a group of children the ‘magic’ of the reaction between baking soda dissolved in water and vinegar. After the reaction resulted in a bubbly cup, one of the kids said to me, “I want to do this!” It was just one of the brilliant reactions from everyone and I had the pleasure of witnessing it.

The STEAM-focused activities were well received by those attending the presentation.

“We are thrilled that the PRCC Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society can come and do STEAM activities with our youngest age group,” said Claire Ratliff, Director of School-Aged Child Care for the YMCA. “They loved the hands-on learning activities, especially building towers with marshmallows and toothpicks. We hope the Honor Society will return soon!


The Honors in Action project does not end with the demonstration of structured play. Students will raise funds and publicize the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, facilitated in the community by United Way. Students also arrange to be tutors for YMCA after-school programs and the Aldersgate Tutoring Program, which is also part of United Way of Hattiesburg’s efforts in the community.

“While our goal was to plant a seed in the minds of children to see the importance of reading, I think our group learned how to be better leaders and actively engage with a different demographic. of our community,” Adams said.

Beta Tau Gamma members who have researched and participated in the Honors in Action project include Tobias Adams (Oak Grove), Raegan Anderson (Purvis), Aidan Aultman (Sumrall), Hunter Bass (Petal), Gunner Burkhalter (Purvis), Carlo Catlett (Hattiesburg), Delanie Dublin (England), Jaden Glen (Hattiesburg), Ben Hartley (Hattiesburg), Micah Mixon (Hattiesburg), Logan Ratliff (Hattiesburg), Ana Salas-Mondragon (Hattiesburg), Kyle Sloan (Hattiesburg) and Noah Taylor (Hattiesburg.) Dr. David Collum and Mr. Said Otwane served as co-advisers working on this project.

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