Sunday, October 22, 2000

Science lab gives pupils hands-on experience

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIAMITOWN - A new lab at Miamitown Elementary School is teaching students hands-on science and a lesson about community spirit.

        Ninety percent of the cost of the lab came from community donations, including businesses and individuals. That amounts to about $10,000 in cash, equipment and volunteer labor.

        “The neat thing about this lab is they know there are people in the community who care about them,” said Pam Stevenson, a sixth-grade teacher who was instrumental in establishing the lab.

[photo] Carrie Boreing, 17, a “tutor-friend” at Miamitown Elementary School's new science lab, shows Austin Dean Benjamin, 12, how to feel vibrations on his voice box while speaking.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        “Every time equipment comes, we open it together. We write thank-you notes. It's nice for kids to see what the community has done, and hopefully, it will spark them some time in their lives to give back, too.“

        All 285 K-6 students use the lab, an uncommon fixture for an elementary school. Most students don't see a science lab until middle school, Mrs. Stevenson said.

        Teachers have conducted hands-on science experiments in classrooms, but this gives them more resources organized in one location.

        “As a single classroom teacher, you'd be lucky if you'd have one or two scales,” Mrs. Stevenson said. “Now, we have one per table. It gives every kid the opportunity to see, touch and feel, as opposed to it being demonstrated. It's been proven that if you do it with your hands, it's much more memorable and effective than reading it in a book.”

        The lab elevates the study of science, said fourth-grade teacher Holly Hobbie.

        “If you have a spot just for science, a huge room filled to the gills, science takes on a permanence and a greater importance,” she said. “Frankly, science and social studies are things that teachers tend not to get to because reading and writing are more important.”

        Teachers hope the lab will help students gain a better understanding of scientific concepts, develop a love for science and increase proficiency test scores.

        “The proficiency test is set up in a manner that they have to be able to apply it. Now, they can say, "If I was doing this in lab, what might the results be?'” Mrs. Stevenson said.

        Through science, students get exposed to reading, another key area of the proficiency test. Students read books, such as The Magic School Bus In The Haunted Museum: A Book About Sound, and conduct lab experiments based on the books' topics.

        Students also connect with the community when a Fluor Fernald employee visits once a month to help with experiments and promote science, math and engineering careers. Fernald is located in the Southwest Local School District.

        Miamitown Elementary already has evidence that a hands-on science approach works. “For the first time, we are above the state average in science, in both grades four and six, this past year,” principal Carter Cordes said. Teachers are even more enthusiastic about teaching science now because of the lab, he said.

        That excitement has spread to students — even those who were lukewarm about science.

        “I used to hate science, but now it's more exciting,” said Nick Chaney, an 11-year-old sixth-grader. “I used to get B's and now I get A's.”

        Andy Dingler was already sold on science. The 11-year-old sixth-grader has four mini-science labs at home and helped set up the school lab last summer.

        “It's just the best place in the school.”



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