December 6, 2012 in Washington Voices

Students share what they’ve learned this year

Sixth-graders show younger students mathmatics tricks
By The Spokesman-Review

Sixth-grader Isaiah Comstock, center, helps first-grader Alexander Helt, seated, in the computer lab at East Farms STEAM Magnet School, with sixth-grader Zack Dale in the background. The sixth-graders worked with younger students, teaching them how to use a word processing program.
(Full-size photo)

About this series

This school year, we are spending two days a month at East Farms STEAM Magnet School in the East Valley School District as it makes the transition from a traditional K-5 elementary school to a STEAM Magnet School serving students through the seventh grade. Next school year, the transformation will be complete as each elementary school in the district will be K-8, with middle-schoolers traveling to the Middle Level Learning Center in the afternoons.

In Jacqui Peterson’s sixth-grade math class, students explained patterns in multiplying nines to fifth-graders, teaching them tricks of remembering what seven times nine equals.

They moved on to converting fractions to decimals, a preview for the fifth-graders as to what they will learn next year, and a way for sixth-graders to re-enforce what they are learning.

“It creates excitement and ownership,” Peterson said. “When you share what you are doing there is more of a buy-in.”

The class was one at East Farms STEAM Magnet School on Friday in which students showed off what they had learned during the first trimester. Each class built on the theme, “What makes something amazing?”

Principal Tammy Fuller is collecting data that she will add to grant proposals to enhance future STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math – projects.

One interesting fact Fuller found was attendance on days students attend art class is higher than on days when they don’t.

“They don’t want to miss art,” Fuller said.

While Fuller said it is too early to tell if the special STEAM days are inspiring students’ interest in those subjects, she feels confident the fun activities help them to look at science and math differently.

“They can’t possibly not improve,” she said.

During two sessions Friday, students visited each other’s classrooms. In George Gessler’s fifth-grade class, students set up stations for visitors.

“They picked what they felt was amazing to them,” Gessler said.

Band students played Christmas carols in the hall to welcome the other classes. There was a group of writers talking about their short stories. Some students chose social studies. Hailey McCarthy and Nevaeh Felker looked up the music to the popular song “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz and played it on recorders.

One group drew pictures of characters from the book, “Peter and the Starcatchers,” by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.

In Chris Russell’s seventh-grade English class, students described their pre-writing process. Across the hall in Angie Bordwell’s math class, seventh-graders led the younger students in songs to help them remember math.

In Peterson’s class, her students also spent some time helping first-graders add nine to any number using cards. Peterson pointed out that each first-grader was getting one-on-one instruction during this time.

“They (first-graders) wouldn’t ordinarily get that,” Peterson said.

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