Elementary teachers make learning fun

Although science is not typically the most exciting subject for elementary students, second-graders at Fritsch Elementary could barely contain their enthusiasm this week during their science lesson.

As part of their air and motion unit, teachers Kathy Bakst and Paula Davies constructed bottle rockets with their students and launched them on the playground.

"Kathy and I took a workshop on technology in the classroom," Davies said. "We learned about these rockets in the workshops and it worked perfectly in with what we were doing."

The project is just one of many that the teachers have prepared throughout the year to make learning more fun for their students.

"They're such great teachers," said Vice Principal Jim Cazier. "Every time I go into their classroom, the kids are always smiling and learning."

It was nothing but smiles as the students, in groups of two, launched their bottle rockets into the air on Wednesday.

Partners Christopher Wortman, 7, and Blake Plattsmier, 8, shouted and cheered as their rocket spiraled into the sky. They jumped up and down and slapped a high five.

"It went so high and it was so fun," Wortman said. "We saw it twirling and we were just so happy."

Cazier said capturing the students' interest, along with strong teaching skills, makes the teaching team a success.

"The kids are going to learn more if it's fun and if they can relate it to background knowledge," Cazier. "They (Bakst and Davies) do a lot with paralleling what the kids are learning to things in the real world."

The students are not the only ones who benefit from making learning more interesting.

"Teaching, for me, wouldn't be worth it if it wasn't enjoyable," Bakst said. "Studying about air isn't that interesting, but making the rockets and the wind chimes was so much fun."

Davies said she does not like to teach straight from a textbook without incorporating outside activities.

"It's boring for me and it's harder to teach that way," she said. "The kids are more on task when they enjoy what they're doing."

Bakst said not only is it more interesting to include fun activities but it helps the students learn.

"I think we remember things that excite us and get our curiosity going," she said. "It helps keep information in our memory."

Davies and Bakst are in their second year of teaching together.

"We work really well together," Bakst said. "It's like a second marriage."

Davies agreed.

"I think I actually spend more time with her than I do with my husband," she said.

Davies said she has always wanted to be a teacher.

"I've known I wanted to be a teacher since the second grade," she said.

She said on rainy days she would gather all of her friends in the basement to play school.

"I had all the neighborhood kids doing seat work at the age of 8," Davies said.

Bakst said she decided to become a teacher after working with children while in college.

"I just really enjoyed working with kids," she said.

Regardless of their reasons for seeking the profession, both said they enjoy what they do.

"It's the only job I know of where you get a fresh start every 10 months," Davies said. "It's an exciting opportunity to look back and reflect on what you did over the year."

Cazier said he makes a practice of walking around the school and dropping into classrooms frequently. He said the Bakst and Davies keep their students under control.

"I walk in there a lot and the students are very well-behaved," Cazier said. "I think it's because the kids enjoy what they're doing."

Bakst and Davies prepared the students for the rocket launching by teaching the basic scientific principles that govern air and motion. They watched parts of "October Sky," a movie about young boys who shoot off rockets.

They also made wind chimes by hanging various items, such as nails, cans and paper clips from an upside down plastic cup.

Then, they constructed miniature rockets made from film canisters and Alka-seltzer.

"It was a good way to introduce the bigger ones," Davies said.

Davies said they launched the smaller ones, which flew between 10 and 15 feet, inside the classroom.

The project culminated with the launching of the rockets, made from plastic water bottles, filled with one cup of water. They pumped air into the bottles, which were decorated as rockets, and the pressure caused the rockets to shoot from the launching pad.

Lucille Bargas came to watch her son launch his rocket.

"Actually, I was really surprised. They're impressive," Bargas said. "This is really neat."

In April, the two are planning a project to teach about impact.

The students will try to design a case that will protect an egg from breaking when dropped off of the roof.


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