- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

LLOYD, Ky. (AP) - Open the door to the fourth-grade science class at Greysbranch Elementary School and you hear the sound of discovery.

It’s rocks shaking in a plastic box, bubbles fizzing up from a solution of chalk and vinegar, pencils scraping on paper, children’s voices raised in a cacaphony of questions, observations and conclusions.

It’s the sound of a dozen simultaneous eureka moments, the sound of science.

Before the year is over, students in Leann Stout’s science class will survey an array of issues in life science, earth science and physical science. The topic on a recent day was chemical and physical weathering, and children were using everyday materials to simulate nature’s processes.

That required them to shake up rocks and sugar cubes to observe the physical breakdown into fragments, immerse steel wool in water to watch it rust, combine vinegar and chalk to simulate the effect of acid on limestone.

“We learn in a fun way. It helps that instead of just watching, we do it,” said Dakota Tuel, at whose table students were dripping vinegar on pennies to study how the acid tarnishes copper.

Students clearly are learning science at Greysbranch and the proof is in state accountability testing scores: Greysbranch recently learned it was first among about 700 elementaries in Kentucky for the second year in a row.

State records show that 43.9 percent of Greysbranch students score proficient and 47.4 percent are distinguished, for a combined 91.2 percent.

“I?like giving students experiences, actually doing science rather than reading about science,”?Stout said. She conducts the activity periods once or twice a week. Students break into teams, put on their goggles and for the next hour or so the classroom is a laboratory.

“I call them my little scientists,” said Stout, who circulates among the tables in her white lab apron offering advice and answering questions but otherwise allowing the students to find answers through old-fashioned scientific inquiry. “It’s discovery on their own,” she said.

Students scrawl observations and then later write detailed reports in their science journals. Extensive writing requires them to review and reflect on the activities.

Students also are required to construct arguments and back them up with evidence.

Another factor in the high scores is that Greysbranch departmentalizes its teachers, principal Jeff Wireman said. In other words, Stout is a science specialist. “She enjoys teaching science. It’s her area of expertise,” Wireman said.

“She’s really good at explaining things and she never gets mad,” said student Ethan Huff.

Science is tested at the state level in fourth grade, but Greysbranch teaches science in every grade, starting with kindergarten, Wireman said. “We build the foundation,” he said.

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Information from: The Independent, https://www.dailyindependent.com


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