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Teachers Work Together To Create Real-Life Scientists

Ring Elementary School second grade teacher, Chris Collins, helps students during a STEM “Sour Power” experiment to explore acidity.

Ring Elementary School second grade teachers, Allen Thomas and Chris Collins, are using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) experiments to create problem-solving and deep thinking scientists. The teachers teamed their classes up to teach experiments like a recent one called, “Sour Power” where students learn about acidity and how the human body reacts to acids in foods by testing different candies using the scientific process. Students investigated and observed which candies they thought would have the most acidity based on the sourness of the candy but were surprised by the results.

“We decided to try a team approach with our classes for a few reasons,” said Collins. “One is that we are teaching to our strengths. Mr. Thomas is better versed in presenting math and I’m stronger in the area of writing. The students also get the benefit of learning from a new teacher with varying viewpoints while we are modeling how to work together on a project. Our students also learn to work with other students that they may not know very well, just like what happens in the real world. We are trying to develop 21st Century workers who are problem-solvers.”

The teachers, who wear white lab coats and goggles, treat the students just like scientists. Everyone is called “Dr.” and professional language is used at all times. The experiments also incorporate the school’s PBIS program of being respectful, responsible, and safe.

“The focus behavior at Ring school the past couple of months with PBIS has been the importance of being responsible,” said Thomas. “These experiments are part of our ‘Friday Fun’ days. We want students to enjoy themselves on these Fun Days but also allot for some rigor and relevance as well. We also want students to understand that conducting a science experiment requires that they need to be responsible for their actions and equipment they use, be safe in handling their supplies, and be respectful of others’ thoughts and opinions during discussion and experimentation. I think the team science experience works so well because it is hands-on and relevant, unlike the traditional sit-down lecture where we tell them something. Our students have to hypothesize, observe and conduct experiments to find the answer for themselves or as partners. By design, they are seeing experiments through the eyes of multiple perspectives — two teachers and their fellow classmates.”

The teachers will be conducting more team science experiments this year — the next one will be “Sink or Float” to learn more about buoyancy.

“We love to see the kids enjoy the learning process,” said the teachers. “It makes us enjoy teaching even more. We want to give students guidance but the experiments are not focused on teacher-led lessons but allow for a student led classroom. We are constantly asking them probing questions to create deeper thinkers. We want them to come up with the answers on their own, or with their peers, so that they feel like they have ‘discovered’ the answer just like a real scientist.”

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