Students can read about the properties of light in their textbooks, said Sandy Waguespack, principal at Galvez Middle School, but like many other scientific concepts being taught in middle school classrooms, they can seem abstract until they are demonstrated in real time.
That’s what led to the purchase of several science learning kits for Galvez Middle teachers, along with lesson plans to go with them. The toolkits, purchased with a $12,000 donation from BASF, serve as an invaluable resource for science classrooms, said Tana Baldwin, who teaches eighth-grade science at Galvez Middle.
“In terms of making lesson plans, I have been able to go to the boxes and dig around until I find the equipment I can use to come up with a demonstration, and sometimes it’s a mix and match from different boxes, but I can do that here instead of scrounging around for materials or buying them myself,” Baldwin said. “It’s really been a game-changer.”
One of the reasons Waguespack picked science kits from Delta Science Modules, she said, was the adjustability.
“Teachers love it, the kids love it, and is easily adapted to curriculum,” she said. “There’s a lot of room for making it their own.”
Reading about refraction on a computer or text and actually creating the effect in front of them leads to a different approach to learning, she said.
“Some things can’t be learned by reading about them, they have to be learned by doing.
It’s amazing to watch these kids begin to understand,” she said, and they’re beginning to see higher scores on tests.
During a recent lesson, eighth-grader Beau Gremillion looked at his worksheet, titled “reflecting,” and followed the instructions while his lab partner, Madison Massey, pen poised, talked with him about the experiment.
Gremillion turned on a bare light bulb mounted to a wooden stand which shone in between them. He held a piece of aluminum foil on one side, while Massey held a piece of orange paper on the other.
“Yep. There’s an orange shadow on your face,” Gremillion said, and they took a moment to write their findings on the worksheet.
This experiment sparked a conversation about why people get better tans — or worse burns — at the beach.
“Think about the things light can reflect off of, onto your skin,” Waguesepack, who taught science before she became a principal, asked the pair.
Both had good answers.
Light colored sand and highly reflective water.
“What about snow? I’ve gotten sunburns at a ski slope,” Waguespack said.
“Oh, yeah, you can go snowblind from the reflection,” Gremillion said.
It’s conversations like these that make Baldwin happy.
At a nearby table, lab partners Cade Blount, Tre’on Morrise and Summer Elsaleh took turns holding pieces of paper and other objects over the bulb to see whether light passed through them.
Earlier in the month, they said, they used ice cubes colored with food coloring in a clear tank of water and observed how the colder, colored water reacted when it melted into the warmer water.
All three agreed that it was one of their favorite lessons so far from the kits.
Learning by experimenting, making mistakes, re-evaluating and experimenting again provides a deeper learning experience than rote memorization, Baldwin said, and it’s simply more engaging than an illustration in a book.
Galvez Middle is BASF’s adopt-a-school partner, and contributed the money as part of an ongoing effort to promote and improve science, technology, engineering and math education, said Jolen Stein, BASF’s site and community relations manager in Louisiana.
“These science kits help make learning fun and exciting,” said Stein. “BASF’s donation to Galvez Middle is a great example of how industry can help inspire the next generation of scientists, researchers, inventors and innovators.”