Last updated: April 17. 2014 7:13PM - 1356 Views
By Tanya Chilton tchilton@civitasmedia.com

Students discuss mathematical skills in the useful approach to get their fair share of homemade cookies.
Students discuss mathematical skills in the useful approach to get their fair share of homemade cookies.
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Elkin Elementary School fifth-graders enjoyed themselves and stayed interested in many important topics on Thursday in four different fifth-grade classrooms as they participated in the Northwest Regional Educational Service Alliance (NWRESA) Professional Math Emphasis with the Arts.

The event was made possible by a fifth-grade teacher teamwork written grant that resulted in money awarded by the Elkin Public Library Endowment Fund supported by the late Lin Hendron. Hendron was known by many in the community for his “lifelong passion to promote understanding, care, and cataloguing of the local and floral fauna to children and adults alike.”

Fifth-grade teachers — Janice Swaim, Carla Hinstock, Julie Reed and Mary Shepherd — also looked to be having a good time as they observed with students and drew analogies from classroom teachings relevant to the topics of discussion.

Shepherd explained how in the event, students are “hearing about the environment through passions of professionals.” She added, “Integration of STEAM activities creates well-rounded, critical thinkers due to multi-sensory learning applications and projects.”

Two events focused on an interactive approach of students learning math through arts and science by presenter Heather Pardue, and math through history, arts and science by presenter, Dee Hamlin. Two other presentations were by Museum of Natural Science presenters, Martha Fisk presenting North Carolina Wildlife and Flora, and Stacy Hagwood presenting a North Carolina Wetlands Presentation.

Some of the things students learned included the necessity of how fractions and geometry can be applied to everyday important practical life situations. For example, in the Pardue presentation, students learned through the book, “The Doorbell Rang,” they could use fractions to calculate how to get an equal share of tasty cookies when competing with a competitive sibling and friends through fictional characters Sam and Victoria.

One student nodded with enthusiasm on the cookies subject and claimed his enjoyment of the book already had existed even before Thursday’s presentation. The young student affirmed to the class, “I have read that book like a thousand times.”

Hamlin used cloth and the patch nine design in the form of a pink and green quilting square to get the class absorbed on how to calculate geometry problems with angles and shapes such as diagonals; how to determine fabric needed for area coverage; and illustrated the importance of halves and wholes in fractions. She described how men and women have historically sought to understand such necessities and highlighted topics including quilting and sailing. She related there are several different mathematical ways to solve the same problem to an interested crowd.

Fisk brought to life for the class several wildlife and flora specimens that included turtles (North Carolina has 20 species), the tiger salamander, the long-leaf pine and the Venus flytrap. The students leaned over their chairs, trying to spot a burrowing tiger salamander and other specimens brought around to observe. She explained the burrowing nature of several specimens is necessary due to a fire-dependent eco-system.

Students debated whether the Venus fly-trap had muscles as a result of its opening and closing hinge-like motion. Some ooh-ed and aah-ed as they felt of the plants real-life teeth. When asked why students thought the Venus flytrap is considered a North Carolina treasure, one student exclaimed with a great comeback, “because it catches insects.”

Presenter Fisk went on to describe how the plant is also a treasure because it is indeed found in the “wild.” Students were pleased to discover in real life it does not eat people as has been portrayed on television. Indeed it uses its natural nectar complete with enzymes similar to human saliva, reminded fifth-grade teacher Carla Hinstock to students, in digesting food.

Hagwood immediately grabbed students’ attention and elicited a tremendous amount of discussion when she explained how wetland preservation is necessary for anyone who loves to eat seafood and shellfish. One student said happily, “I love catfish,” and another, “I like shrimp.”

Several more chimed on their agreement in the need to protect wetlands when they found they are home to rice and cranberries. They also learned how oysters are important filters of the water. They discovered wetlands are a home to many migratory animals. In addition, Hagwood explained that sediment is the number one wetland pollutant and students showed concern when they learned the plight of the dragonfly nymph’s attempts to fight off sediment and stay alive.

Several discussed their own personal snake stories when Hagwood explained that “venomous” snakes in North Carolina are the ones often found swimming on top of the water.

In May, students plan to visit Catawba Science Center in Hickory where the day will include activities presented by career scientists. Topics will include Hands-on Force and Motion in Weather; Life Structure Through Frog Dissection; and Change of States of Matter. The grant will pay for half of the funds needed for the trip, added Shepherd.

Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.

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