Local high school makes science interactive

Emily Andrews

A new science course will change the way science is taught at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent by making it more about fieldwork and less about definitions.

“I hope the students learn science intrinsically,” said Chris Carman, a high school chemistry teacher at Kent Roosevelt involved in the new course. “It’s not just the high school learning community involved, it’s the Kent community itself. The more non-traditional we can make the class, the more meaningful it will be to the students.”

The science elective course will be called Environmental Science. It will be offered to juniors and seniors who don’t plan on majoring in science in college. It is aligned with the academic content standards and will be available to students this spring semester.

The class is based off an idea that students got when they participated in “ISLS 2007: Igniting Streams of Learning in Science,” which was a program developed by three professors from Kent State, The University of Akron and Hiram College.

Ten schools, including Kent Roosevelt, went and stayed at Hiram College for two weeks and worked on this innovative way of learning science concentrating on fieldwork and discussion.

“It was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced in education,” Carman said.

Funding for the ISLS program was provided by a grant from the Ohio Board of Regents, said Dennis Taylor, professor of biology at Hiram College.

“The legislature provided two more years of funding,” Taylor said. “The idea is that we will try to get kids excited about science. We don’t teach what science is, except by doing it.”

The students, who went to the academy at Hiram, helped put together the class by coming up with topics and making the lesson plans.

“We wanted something to impact the school and last,” Carman said. “So we decided to make a class. I gave the students the content standards, and they had to tie it in.”

Kent resident John Gwinn said he thinks students helping structure the class is a good idea.

“I think it’s a good innovative approach when students are helping structure the course with faculty supervision,” Gwinn said. “I’m optimistic. I want to get a report in two years to see how it is doing.”

The class is broken down into nine modules that were each designed by one of the students. The modules include pollution, global warming, ethics and independent community interaction.

“We don’t want people just striving towards the good grade,” said Sarah Jackson, student and one of the creators of the class. “It’s not really realistic to real-life problems. We want to develop responsibility in a broader sense — in the global sense.”

The class will focus on fieldwork, reflection, keeping a journal, cooperative learning and alternative assessments.

“The goal is to get rid of standardized science tests,” Carman said as the students erupted in applause. “Most students actively choose not to participate because we’ve made it so students have no active involvement.”

Carman said the class will hopefully have some additional funding. They are currently applying for grants from several organizations, including the Kent Environmental Council.

“If we don’t get the grants we are limited,” Carman said.

Some Kent residents said they are excited about this innovative new class.

“I’m very excited,” said Ann Ward, member of the Kent Environmental Council. “It has the potential to lead in a wide variety of ways. The community will learn about the students and the students will learn about the community.”

Contact news correspondent Emily Andrews at [email protected].