2011-05-05 / Local & State

Science: It’s Elementary

Program is more than pencil and paper
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER


First-grader Mary Ellen Scanlon uses a magnifying glass from her class's Science: It's Elementary kit to take a closer look at a pill bug. First-grader Mary Ellen Scanlon uses a magnifying glass from her class's Science: It's Elementary kit to take a closer look at a pill bug. Science: It’s Elementary’s motto of “inspiring a passion for science in the citizens of tomorrow” certainly isn’t lost on the students and staff at Forbes Road Elementary. From daily lessons in woodland studies to experiments in friction, the handson activities have left the students at this small, rural school begging for more.

A state initiative applied for by guidance counselor Brandi Robertson brought Science: It’s Elementary to the elementary nearly four years ago.

According to facility Principal Paul Swope, in 2007-08 and the following school year, the cost of participating in the popular program was entirely funded. This year, the district is sharing in the overall cost, which includes the purchase of valuable kits and lesson plans for various grade levels.


First-grade teacher Cindy McClain oversees her students Monday during a period of question and observation related to a hands-on science lesson on organisms. First-grade teacher Cindy McClain oversees her students Monday during a period of question and observation related to a hands-on science lesson on organisms. As an example, Swope noted fifth-grade students are currently working with “hot rods” constructed of metal frames, wheels and rubber bands that provide hands- on lessons in friction. Meanwhile, third-graders are studying crayfish and, in the near future, beetles, which will race along with paper clips.

It is hoped funding will continue to be available through the district’s budget process to keep these scientific endeavors moving forward in 2011-12.

Each lesson is specifically created for students “to not only observe the practical aspects of science, but also to experiment, interpret, propose solutions and test their own scientific theories.” Having previously taught her students from textbooks, first-grade teacher Cindy McClain has witnessed first-hand how Science: It’s Elementary lessons have benefitted the student body over the last four years.


Wanting to keep her pill bug fat and happy, Katie Waite gently places a spinach leaf inside her specially created woodland terrarium. Wanting to keep her pill bug fat and happy, Katie Waite gently places a spinach leaf inside her specially created woodland terrarium. Currently working on a unit entitled “Organisms,” McClain’s students turned their sights Monday to the woodland scene and the pill bug. Students were asked by their teacher to share information that they thought they knew about the pill bug, which is also known as a sow bug or rolly polly. The group also asked questions about the pill bug that they may be able to answer following a period of observation.

The questions from the eager mini-scientists were plentiful and ranged from how to determine the gender of a pill bug and are they squirmy to why do they roll into a ball. Having gingerly poked the bugs to get a reaction and watching them through a magnifying glass, the students were able to confirm that the bugs have 14 legs, antennae and could be playing possum if they didn’t move when touched.

Amid the students’ excitement and chatter about why their bugs didn’t roll into a ball, McClain reminded them that sometimes things don’t happen in science class even though you expect them too.

“You can’t always believe what you hear,” she added. “You need to observe.”

As a follow-up to their lesson, students learned from McClain the pill bug is related to lobsters, shrimp and crabs and breathe through their gills. They require a damp environment to survive, whether it be a woodpile or leaf litter, and even though their bellies are soft their back is comprised of a hard exoskeleton.

In comparison to the former teaching method used, McClain told the “News” the students’ love of science has grown considerably. “They have so much excitement,” said McClain.

“To come from a district where Science It’s Elementary is not used, to see the enthusiasm of these kids is amazing,” stated the principal. “The students aren’t just hearing about science. They are learning first-hand from exposure to scientific methods and terminology. It’s not dummied down.”

“It takes education to a whole different level besides paper and pencil,” he added.

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