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Taft Midway Driller - Taft, CA
  • Lincoln students take hands-on approach to science

  • Michelle Gerry's students working in teams in variety of science topics

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  • Students in Michelle Gerry’s Gateway to Technology class at Lincoln Junior High are taking a fresh approach to studying science.
    Working in teams on independent nine-week units, students explore aerospace, energy, the environment, modeling, robotics, and technology.
    The focus is on hands-on, real world projects that help students understand how the information and skills they are learning in the classroom can be applied to everyday life.
    “It’s a big hands-on approach,” said Gerry, who has been teaching for more than 10 years – half of that at Lincoln.
    Her design class was working on various methods of measuring things.
    Know what a cubit is?
    Her students do.
    “They’re learning about measurements and why things were standardized,” she said.  “They use different ways to measure things, then put it all on a spreadsheet.  I have them work with a partner.”
    The teams then compare results with each other to compare outcomes.
    “After they finish they have to create PowerPoint slide shows with their vocabulary,” Gerry added.  “They have to use animation.”
    Some of her students are building remote-controlled robots in an after-school program organized and run by Taft College through its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) grant.
    It’s called the Young Innovators Club, meets bi-weekly and has grown from its initial enrollment of 30 two years ago to more than 75 today.
    Gerry’s classroom is equipped with 25 desktop computers the students utilize frequently to incorporate what they are learning and produce PowerPoint presentations.
    “Sometimes I feel more like a computer teacher than a science teacher, but it’s O.K. because that’s what they’ve got to learn.”
    The activities-oriented curriculum is designed to challenge and engage students, bringing out their natural curiosity.
    The goal is to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and math courses and prepare students for high school.
    The class is designed to entice students to “keep an eye toward career choices.”
    It’s all part of the non-profit Project Lead the Way, which was launched in 1997 to address the shortage of engineering students at the college level.
    The program has resulted in a significant increase in the number of students studying engineering and technology.  Surveys indicate that students in the program have a higher retention rate in college science courses than other students in those areas and that 97 percent of high school seniors who have gone through the program intend to pursue a four-year degree or higher compared to the national average of 67 percent
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