Science class tests other ways to learn
Kids get to choose what they want to study
A lot of experiments occur in Tom Perry’s classroom at Peabody-Burns Middle and High School.
One of his classes is an experiment itself.
Principal Ryan Bartel was interested in a type of teaching popular in private schools, where teachers sometimes ask students what they want to learn.
Instead of a teacher being a “sage on the stage,” talking to students in front of a chalkboard, the teacher becomes “guide on the side.”
The concept isn’t new, but it’s new to Peabody-Burns. The goal is to teach in a way that helps students flourish instead of flounder.
“Most of us benefit from some autonomy and choice in what we learn,” Bartel said.
He used a bus analogy.
Why drive students someplace they don’t want to go?
The technique puts students in the driver’s seat, with the teacher helping students get to where they want to go.
“I think we have such an opportunity at Peabody, specifically because we’re such a small size,” he said.
He hopes to scale the experiment.
At the start of the school year, Bartel identified three students struggling in science. They are learning biology, chemistry, and physics through hands-on experiments.
They attend Perry’s class every day. They — and Perry — are learning how to “unlearn” a more rigid teaching structure.
“We can use your interests and bring the science into that,” Perry said of his students.
Kate Hous, the first student selected for the class, wanted to learn how people preserved food during the late 1800s as the people in “Little House on the Prairie” did.
A freshman, she picked apples from the school’s orchard and learned how to make apple cider vinegar. She then used the vinegar to make pickles.
She’s also learned how to water-glass eggs. Clean, unwashed eggs are kept in a jar with pickling lime and a water solution so “oxygen doesn’t get into the pores” of the shell.
Her first batch of eggs didn’t fare well because one’s shell must have had a pore that didn’t seal properly.
She made another jar of eggs. They appear to be a success.
As Hous checked on the eggs, Bartel sampled a pickle.
“These are vastly improved day by day,” he said.
“They’re getting more dill-y,” Perry said.
Hous worked Friday on a primitive dehydrator that looked like a tiny fireplace.
“You could make an instructional video about how to make an antique apple dehydrator,” Bartel said.
Meanwhile, Kris Riley wanted to build a trebuchet to rein in his interest in seeing “stuff go boom.”
“Pretty much I wanted to see a pumpkin go boom,” he said.
Getting the right angles has been a challenge and taught him a lot about physics.
“We ended up getting physics class to help us solve the problem,” Perry said.
The class will meet the rest of the school year.
“Next, I want to make a potato gun,” Riley said.
Last modified Nov. 24, 2022