Tavelli Elementary students are discovering a newfound interest in science through hands-on, engaging projects like making fossils and raising chickens in the school’s new science lab.
“The kids love it and are discovering that science is fun,” said Sherilyn Galeener, Tavelli’s new science teacher.
The new science lab and teacher go hand-in-hand with Tavelli’s new science focus. Kindergartners through 5th-graders at Tavelli now attend weekly or regularly scheduled science classes throughout the year like they do with music, art, technology and physical education “specials” classes. Previously the school, like many PSD elementary schools, focused on science units at specific times during the school year, instead of year-round.
With the new science focus, Tavelli has dedicated one of its classrooms to be a science lab where students study topics in earth, life and physical sciences. Thanks to a $3,975 SPIE (Supporting Partnerships in Innovation Education) grant from the PSD Foundation, Tavelli has equipped the lab with items like beakers, hot plates, microscopes, slides, stop watches, and fossil kits.
"I am grateful for the members of the Fort Collins community who donate money for SPIE grants and the to the SPIE grant committee members who donate their time to the program. They have made it possible for me to "dream big" this year while planning Tavelli's science curriculum," said Galeener, who authored the grant.
Since Tavelli began the new science initiative last fall, Galeener said student scores on annual assessment tests, like MAPS (Measures of Academic Progress), have increased. While she is happy about the improvement in test scores, Galeener is also pleased with the students’ new attitude toward science.
“Part of my goal is to change the kids’ perception of what science is and get them excited about it,” she said.
Recently students learned about fossils by creating their own out of plaster and molds. “This shows them what paleontologists in the field do,” said Galeener. “The students often don’t really understand that the animal itself is not preserved in a fossil. I’m hoping this makes it more tangible.”
The learning activity was certainly a big hit with Tavelli fourth-graders Meghan McMorrow, Brandon Cates and Cassidy Jackson, who agreed that they learned a lot about fossils while having fun together.
“I like it because it’s hands-on,” said Meghan, while they poured plaster into a mold.
“And it’s a team effort,” agreed Cassidy.
“And it’s gooey,” added Brandon.
This spring, Tavelli third-graders will learn about the life cycle by raising chickens from eggs in an incubator. “I want them to be able to apply what they learn about the cycles of life to other animals and learn that all animals and plants have a life cycle,” Galeener said.