A new science lab is up and running at Rivergold Elementary School, funded by the school's Gifted and Talented Education, or GATE, program.
The decision to support the lab arose from the school's desire to see the $2,000 allotted for GATE benefit the largest number of children. The lab is available for students in second through eighth grade.
"As money was decreasing, we figured we'd get the most bang for our buck with the lab," said Lynn Reimer, seventh and eighth grade science teacher. "GATE has offered a lot of different programs in the past, but it hasn't impacted that many students, not like this does."
Reimer operates the science lab, begun last semester, every Friday with the assistance of eighth-graders assigned to teach and supervise small groups of students.
Each class at the school receives 13 science lab sessions a year, customized for their yearly state science requirements.
Activities pose various questions like: What are things made of? How do you build molecules using the Periodic Table? How do animals get energy? What causes different types of weather conditions?
In the lab, kindergarten through eighth-grade classes have access to materials such as digital microscopes, stethoscopes, prisms, tuning forks, pulleys, rock collections, prepared slides and DNA models. Science lab items also are available for teachers to check out for their classrooms and are used in seventh and eighthgrade science classes.
Reimer said the science lab also gives children a way to develop other key skills, such as writing and reading, that may not normally interest them. A workbook with information to complete for each session is provided to every student.
"It helps them think logically and think out of the box," eighth-grade lab assistant Grant Hall said.
Hall said student teachers can help facilitate learning, as students often are more comfortable talking to their peers.
"It gives them a jump-start on learning," eighth-grade assistant Libby Haggard said.
She said she thinks what students learn in elementary school will put them ahead in junior high school and beyond.
Hall said the hands-on element of the lab is more effective than reading textbooks in teaching most students science and helps get them excited about learning.
"It's fun, and I want to make goop," said 7-year-old Noah Aceves two weeks ago after his second-grade science lab, during which he looked at various parts of flowers under microscopes.
"You put stuff in bottles, and sometimes things goes wacky," Tyler Smith, 8, said.
"I love watching those 'a-ha' and 'come check this out (moments)," Reimer said. "At that point, I'm behind the scenes, just watching and observing."