MASON CITY | For at least five weeks, a portion of Lincoln Intermediate sixth-graders has been learning chemistry through a variety of hands-on activities.
“Doing is learning,” said Lisa Hugi, a teacher at Lincoln Intermediate in Mason City.
Hugi’s 90 sixth-grade students are part of a “pilot project” being done in collaboration with Nikae Perkinson, Natural Sciences Division chairwoman and a chemistry instructor at North Iowa Area Community College, and her college students, to prepare the school for new Iowa science standards required to be in place by the 2018-19 school year.
The state’s new standards are based on the Next Generation Science Standards, learning expectations for grades K-12 developed by 26 states, including Iowa, to equip students’ for college and 21st-century careers.
Under the new standards, which were approved by the Iowa State Board of Education in 2015, sixth-grade teachers will teach their students chemistry for the first time.
“We’re gearing up (for next year),” Perkinson said.
Earlier this year, Perkinson contacted Ashley Flatebo, an instructional coach at John Adams Middle School, about collaborating with a sixth-grade science teacher within the Mason City Community School District to teach chemistry as part of a service project.
Hugi was selected, and since then, she and Perkinson have been working together each week to determine what and how to teach chemistry concepts to her sixth-graders.
“(Perkinson) is the expert in chemistry, I’m the novice, so it’s been nice for her to kind of guide me that way,” Hugi said.
Once a week, Perkinson and several of her chemistry students — pursuing agriculture, medical and other fields — visit Hugi’s students and assist with chemistry-related activities.
On Tuesday, students made molecular models, while other weeks, they’ve learned about the periodic table and made rock candy.
“I like science,” said sixth-grader Greyson Brandt. “It’s fun.”
Brandt’s classmate Kylie Bergman agreed, noting she has enjoyed all the chemistry activities.
Bergman also said she enjoys having Perkinson and the college students visit each week because they provide “extra help in the classroom” when Hugi is busy helping other students.
“We’ve been team-teaching and working on projects to get students engaged and excited about science, and my college students have been able to use their expertise that they’re learning in the classroom in a really positive way,” Perkinson said. “It’s just a win-win for both of us.”
After Thanksgiving, Hugi said she will present the curriculum to other teachers at the school, where they will discuss what worked and what didn’t, and then, they’ll begin teaching chemistry.
“It’s fascinated me on how much they know, how eager they are to learn, and some of my struggling learners have really thrived in the classroom because it’s more hands-on,” she said.
Perkinson said she hopes the pilot project becomes a long-term collaboration between NIACC and Mason City teachers because it’s been “very valuable” for all the students involved.