- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - Some may be put off by the idea of digging through owl pellets, separating fur and bones to guess what critters made up the owl’s diet, but fifth graders in Pam Stamm’s class at Taylor Intermediate School loved it.

The project they worked on was part of a unit on food chains and food webs that Stamm taught in her three science classes in May. She tries to incorporate a hands-on project or experiment each week to keep students interested in the scientific concepts.

“We go through and learn the high points in the reading, and then we try to use what we learn,” said Stamm, who has spent the past 10 years of her 15-year career at Taylor schools teaching science. She leads three sections of science classes and teaches reading and math in the mornings this school year.

Stamm is fine with some noise in her classroom as students discuss the dissections while they work. Students pause their conversations whenever their soft-spoken teacher asks for their attention in order to give directions.

“The kids come up with wonderful ideas that you wouldn’t think of yourself,” Stamm told the Kokomo Tribune ( https://bit.ly/1mjDOMd ). “I like science so well because there’s so much they can do themselves. You get the conversation going as they figure things out.”

In recent years, Stamm’s approach to her lessons was revamped as Taylor Schools was selected as one of four corporations in the state to participate in Purdue University’s Science Learning through Engineering Design (SLED) program.

This is Taylor’s third year implementing the program, after Stamm, a math teacher, art teacher and special education teacher, completed SLED training. The goal is to increase science learning for third- through sixth-grade students by incorporating engineering design-based projects into the curriculum.

Earlier this school year, students learned about prosthetic limbs as part of a SLED project and had to design a leg and foot that could kick a miniature soccer ball. The project concluded with seeing which group’s design could kick the ball the farthest. Having students maintain a journal about the project also incorporates English language arts and writing skills into the science lessons, Stamm said.

“It’s neat to hear them talk about ‘oh, that’s why we’re doing that in art.’ They see science is more than just in a science classroom,” she added. “They like all the SLED projects because they get to work creatively.”

Stamm’s dedication to her students also goes beyond the classroom. For the past 13 years, she’s taken a group of students to Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Students spend a long weekend learning about space, completing simulated missions and building rockets.

Last Wednesday, Stamm accompanied a group of her top science students to the Indianapolis Challenger Learning Center of Decatur, where students participated in a simulation of being either on the International Space Station or at the NASA Mission Control Center.

“The kids have to talk back and forth with each other to communicate what’s happening in their room,” Stamm said.

Stamm’s willingness to go beyond the textbook in her science classes creates meaningful experiences for her students, said Taylor Intermediate School principal Jeremy Luna.

Luna was assistant principal at the high school before transferring to the intermediate school this year. Many high school students would talk about projects they’d done in Stamm’s class, which Luna said is a testament to the impact she had on them.

“That says something too, that she has a lasting impact,” Luna said. “She sees the value of not just sitting in the classroom, but getting your hands dirty, so to speak.”

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com


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