Shoot for A’s fuels enthusiasm for math and science in the classroom
BY RHONDA ALEXANDER For Sun-Times Media February 19, 2013 2:41PM
Rockdale School science club member Nicole Stadler works on the title of the team's sciece project, Fruit and Veggie Power. The team is participating in the Shoot For A's in Math and Science program. | Mary Compton ~ For Sun-Times Media
PART 1 OF A 5-PART SERIES
We examine how the local program, Shoot for A’s, is enhancing math and science education.
PARTICIPATING SCHOOL DISTRICTS:
Channahon School District 17
Minooka Community Consolidated School District 201
Rockdale Elementary School District 84
Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C Channahon Junior High
ON THE WEB:
To learn more about Shoot for A’s, visit www.shootforas.org.
COMING UP NEXT:
In the next installment, we’ll learn more about learning: how the students take their projects from the idea stage to completion.
Updated: March 11, 2013 5:13PM
Abby Holloway, 13, wants to be an aerospace engineer.
“[I’m interested in] designing spacecraft, figuring out how it works, the amount of fuel you have to use and everything that goes into making it lift off, basically,” said Holloway, a Channahon Junior High student and a two-time participant in the local program, Shoot for A’s in Math and Science.
Taking that seed of a dream and nurturing it in an academic setting is what the program Shoot for A’s is all about. This program, sponsored by Exxon Mobil, aims to foster enthusiasm in math and science in middle school students.
Four local school districts — Channahon School District 17, Minooka Community Consolidated School District 201, Rockdale Elementary School District 84 and Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C — are participating in this year’s Shoot for A’s program. Students at these schools are currently working on science projects that are focused on energy efficiency. The projects will be displayed at a science expo in the spring.
Rockdale is participating in the program for the first time. Tammy Ledesma, the only science teacher at Rockdale, couldn’t be more excited about her school’s participation.
“After we participated in Exxon Mobil’s Secrets of Science day wherein the engineers came out and conducted a science experiment with our kids in sixth through eighth grades … we were asked to participate in the Shoot For As program this year,” Ledesma said.
HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS
Expanding math and science exposure to kids at a young age can have a lasting impact on students’ growth, development and the direction of their professional lives. This is why constructing a productive learning environment for children of middle school age is so essential.
Jennifer Leimberer, director of teaching integrated math and science project at at University of Illinois in Chicago, said that middle school is when the foundation of learning happens.
“Oftentimes, if kids are going to choose to be in math or science, they are usually inspired in late elementary and middle school years,” Leimberer said.
She said setting the foundation in middle school ensures that high school programs
will be more meaningful overall and help prepare students for college.
This is the fourth year Exxon Mobil’s Shoot For A’s program has raised funds with participating sponsors and given out grants to Joliet-area middle schools in an effort to encourage and expand interest in math and science.
Feeding the natural curiosity in any way — that’s the goal of the Shoot For A’s program according to Tricia Simpson, Exxon Mobil’s Midwest public and government affairs manager in Joliet.
“There are things on the teacher’s wish list like 3D microscopes or iPads with different apps for science and math … those things may not be in the regular school budget,” Simpson said.
She also said that the needs of the students don’t have to be farfetched or overreaching. The need could be as simple as covering the costs for buses and admission for a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry … whatever the students need to pique and nurture their desire to increase their science- and math-related educational goals.
The first year Exxon Mobil offered the Shoot for A’s grant, Jeana Pekol was a science teacher in Minooka District 201. Her environmental club received the program’s first grant. She’s seen firsthand how beneficial the program is and how it has furthered the students’ interest in science and math.
“Without the program, we wouldn’t have provided so many opportunities for our kids,” said Pekol, who is now principal at Minooka Intermediate School.
LEARNING CAN BE FUN
Channahon student Jessoni Wilkinson, 12, is fascinated by roller coasters. Her group of five is focusing on which kind of roller coaster is more efficient — those made with steel or wood. They’re building their hypothesis around the well-known American Eagle and Raging Bull roller coasters at Six Flags in Gurnee; they also plan to build a model roller coaster.
At the helm of Channahon’s science club, stands Kirk Lange, the science club teacher who has participated in the Shoot For A’s project for the past four years.
Recently, he finalized purchase orders for the equipment that’s going to be needed to build the visual portion of their projects. A biofuel cell is just one of the components for a group that is studying different fuel sources for cars that run off of other forms of fuel.
“[These kids] are going to be our future engineers and hopefully even future Exxon Mobil employees,” Lange said.
— Sponsored by Exxon Mobil