Kindergarten science lesson and STEM partnership showcased at School Committee

Abner Gibbs kindergarten teacher Ms. Maher and student Miles teach a science lesson on the three states of matter to classmates and the School Committee. (Photo by Amy Porter)

WESTFIELD – Abner Gibbs Elementary School Principal Stacy Burgess introduced Kelley Maher’s kindergarten class to the School Committee on Monday to demonstrate teacher leaders through a lesson taught by her student, Miles.

Maher said he would use the tools of “attention getter,” “mirror words,” “teach okay,” and “hands and eyes” to teach his classmates a science lesson.
Miles, standing on a platform, began by saying, “Everything is made up of matter. There are three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas.” In turn, the students mirrored his words, repeating the lesson.
Miles then demonstrated how solid matter is hard by knocking on wood, how liquid takes the shape of the container, and gas is mostly invisible. The students then repeated and acted out the movements of each state of matter, falling to the floor for water, standing and raising their hands for gas. By the end of the lesson, Miles even had Mayor Brian P. Sullivan and the Westfield School Committee members acting out the three movements of matter.
The kindergartener’s lesson was a good prelude to a presentation on the Pioneer Valley STEM network by Westfield Public Schools Science, Technology and Engineering supervisor Lauren Figy and Westfield State University Associate Professor Jennifer A. Hanselman, chair of the Biology Dept. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Dr. Hanselman said that WSU has been chosen as the lead institution in the Pioneer Valley STEM Network, part of a statewide initiative to engage students in STEM. She said they will be working with non-profits, museums, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Pioneer Valley Women in STEM, and schools throughout the valley from Greenfield Community College to Longmeadow. She said they will be working closely with the Westfield schools.
The emphasis for the STEM network will be on the statewide STEM week, Oct. 21 – 25. Hanselman said their first launch will be to engage teachers across the district in planning activities for STEM week.
Figy said last year, several STEM week projects took place throughout the district, including inviting all 8th graders to Westfield Technical Academy for hands-on STEM projects in the shops. This year, Figy said they are looking to expand to K-12. So far, they are planning lessons on the lunar landing for fifth graders, kinetics in seventh grade, and dissecting brains in eighth grade, with curriculum provided by the initiative. Teacher trainings on the curriculum will be held on July 1 – 2.
Hanselman said they are in the planning phase and will come back in August to share full STEM week activities with the School Committee, who she hopes will get involved.

“We look forward to working with the teachers,” Hanselman said. She added that although this is a state-wide effort, schools will still hold individually organized events.
Figy said it will be a wonderful opportunity for the district. She said the theme of the network is, “See yourself in STEM.”

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