West Shore ESD receives $100,000 grant

March 28, 2018 GMT

The West Shore Educational Service District (ESD) was recently awarded a $100,000 Cereal City grant to purchase science kits for elementary students in the district.

Students in first through fifth grade have received kits, and educators are taking note of their positive impact.

“The Cereal City kits really get the students to think,” said Geri Fellows, a fifth-grade science teacher at Foster Elementary School. “They problem-solve, and the kits provide a guide. They do a lot of reflecting, because they have to write down what happens in their personal journals.”

Kathy Winczewski, the Mason-Lake Oceana Math-Science Center Instruction Science Coach for the ESD, said using the kits has encouraged students to think like scientists.

“That’s the way we’re teaching science today — having the kids come up with an investigation like scientists do, take their data and draw conclusions.”

As students engage in the process, they are encouraged to share ideas. They present their data and conclusions and other students ask questions about the process.

There are currently Cereal City science kits for earth science and physical science. By the fall, the plan is to have new units for life science as well.

Kits are revamped to meet the state and national science curriculum requirements as they are changed and updated. In general, there is one kit purchased for teachers at each grade level, and most of the materials needed for a science unit are included in the plastic bin they get.

The teacher’s binder tells the teacher how much time the lesson will take, what materials are required and included for each group of four students and what the teacher needs to know to develop the lesson.

In addition, each student has a personal journal in which to record their observations and key terms learned.

“(The journal) is a great way to show student growth. Teachers are encouraged to keep the journals so at the end of the year they can open the first journal and share with the student, parents, principal, and school board, the progress that has been made,” Winczewski said.

The ESD provides professional training for Winczewski to go to Battle Creek (Cereal City) to be prepared to instruct the local teachers in the use of the kits.

“Many elementary teachers don’t major in science, so as we were transferring to using the kits, we decided we really needed help to get comfortable with the materials,” she said.

For this teacher training, Winczewski pulls out the units for which material management is most difficult, and she problem-solves with the teachers.

“We probably do seven to 10 of the 32 activities and do those that are most challenging. Then we look at the pre- and post-tests and see how the work is age-appropriate to the kids,” she said.

As part of the training, she puts the teachers in a “campfire circle” and shows, by example, how the teachers will do the same with the students by practicing give and take.

See the full story and photos in Tuesday’s Ludington Daily News print and e-Editions