Summer program geared to help students make connections
Science teacher Brandy Stewart holds up a comet she created with dry ice for students taking part in Science Camp July 21.

Fort Belvoir Elementary School is conducting a math and science summer program for rising, first- through sixth-grade students.

The program, which consists of three, two-week sessions, is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program. The sessions are scheduled through Aug. 12.

“Typically, in elementary school, they don’t get a lot of science,” said Nancy Rowland, Operation Patriotic S.T.E.M grant manager. “There’s science included in the curriculum, but, with all the other math and reading, they become the priority. So, the children lose a lot of science. They end up getting about a half an hour a day, which isn’t a lot.”

Each grade level has 15 students with the curriculum covering from potential and kinetic energy and the distance between each planet. The program also covers engineering issues, from how to select materials to properly build a structure and how much pressure it takes to break the structure.

“They’re doing the engineer-design process, where they create things and start experimenting with them, and they can use that process in writing an essay,” Rowland said. “So, they’re using it throughout the curriculum now, and making comparisons throughout the curriculum.”

Rowland said each student at Belvoir elementary was invited to participate in the program, with some students recommended based on their math and science scores during the regular school year.
She also said making real-life connections with the material being taught is another goal of the program. Rising second graders have been studying Benjamin Franklin, focusing on his inventions. Franklin created the fire department, so the students had the chance to put out a fire and then discuss if they could’ve put the fire out faster if they had used more buckets of water.

“We brought in engineers from Clark Construction that were doing the north Fort Belvoir project and they came in and worked with the students and told them their real-life stuff and how it related to what they were doing in this project,” said Rowland. “We had the students building walls and trying to destroy them and see which materials worked the best. The engineers showed the students how they do that in real life and that’s where the connections were made. One of the students hugged the engineer and said ‘I want to be an engineer when I grow up.’”

Blake Austin, a rising third-grader, said his favorite part of the program has been the science lab.
“I like making kites,” Blake said. “Because, it’s like an airplane and it flies.”

Parents of students who just moved to Belvoir due to a permanent change of station have used the program as a way for their child to meet his or her future classmates before the school year starts.
Rowland said she and the rest of the teachers at Fort Belvoir would like to keep the program going after grant money runs out.

“They give you grant money to build a capacity of teachers and you build the knowledge base so that, when the money runs out, the teachers have training they didn’t have before,” Rowland said. “We’re hearing from teachers, just anecdotally, that my student said this and that was definitely from the after-school program and they definitely wouldn’t have made the connection before. There’s a change in the thought process with the students, and that’s the ultimate goal.”

Page last updated Thu July 28th, 2011 at 15:56