Real-World Science

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

While teaching a class of third-graders about ecology at Lawhon Elementary on a recent Thursday, Reginald Rose suddenly stopped and held up a large tree limb.
The branch, from a tree in Rose’s backyard, contained holes where termites had found a home and larger holes where woodpeckers had eaten those termites.
With the eyes of the students fixed upon the wooden prop, Rose explained the importance a dead tree could have in the life cycle.
Rose, a retired businessman and a Lee County Master Gardener, has been volunteering to teach science lessons to Lawhon third-graders throughout the school year.
“Instead of a lecture, he brings petrified wood and samples of rocks,” said Lawhon third-grade teacher Margaret Gibson. “He just makes it come to life for them. He loves it.”
Each of the school’s 10 third-grade classes meets with Rose once every two weeks for 50 minutes. Lawhon teachers said that his lessons provide the roughly 150 third-grade students with a different perspectives on the science lessons they teach in class.
“It is a community partnership,” said fellow third-grade teacher Kelly Moss. “It gives the kids an opportunity to see a real-life expert and to know what is taking place outside of the classrooms.”
Rose’s lessons about topics like matter or space or weather are planned in coordination with the school’s teachers to match their curriculum. He often communicates with the teachers to make sure the lessons mesh, Moss said.
Rose wants students to be aware of the real-world impact of science. During the recent ecology lesson, he told the students about ways the Icelandic volcano and Gulf oil spill affected individuals miles away.
The students have also planted several bulbs around campus and have started a cabbage garden. Each of the students also was given a cabbage plant to take home.
In late October, they went to Mississippi State University, where they dug for fossils and visited the Geology Museum and the Cobb Institute of Archaeology Museum.
They’ve done chemical reactions and looked at the affect of sunlight upon plants. They’ve also used thermometers and barometers.
“We’re opening a door that hadn’t been open to kids this age before,” Gibson said.
Third-grader Bonnie Catherine Baldwin said her favorite part was learning about space, while classmate Mack Scruggs like the lessons about matter.
“He does something every time, and you never know what we’re going to do,” Bonnie Catherine said.
Added Mack: “We may study matter, and he’ll bring examples of matter.”
Gibson said Rose is often able to go into more depth or to answer specific questions that the children have.
If I don’t cover a lesson as well, he picks right up,” Gibson said. “Any question they don’t think of to ask you, he always has an answer because he is so knowledgeable.”
Rose wants to provide hands-on experience that helps students better understand what they see in their textbooks. He also wants the third graders to grasp the importance of conservation.
“I see myself as a volunteer who the teachers look to to be a different person to come to the classroom,” Rose said. “My role is to complement what they are doing and give the children someone else to see in their classroom other than the teacher. It is important to bring these outside people.
“Hopefully they walked out with a better understanding of what science is all about.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.