Grants fund hands-on science lessons

03/17/2014 12:00 AM

03/16/2014 9:09 PM

Science comes to life in Lynn Kostel’s library. On a recent Wednesday morning, three baby chicks hatched and a fourth was slowly pecking its way out of its shell.

Despite housing everything from hissing cockroaches and a tree frog to a hedgehog and hatchlings, Kostel’s library at Daulton Elementary isn’t all that unusual in the Mansfield school district. A grant last year brought interactive life-cycle lessons to Mansfield elementaries. Sometime this spring, a grant-funded weather program will make the little library patrons into meteorologists in training.

“We’re kind of this little secret,” Kostel said. “A lot of people think we check out books and read stories, and we do. But we do so much more.”

The nearly $10,000 weather grant was awarded last fall by the Mansfield ISD Education Foundation so that all of the elementary school campuses could implement weather equipment in the libraries, featuring real tools meteorologists use to prepare their forecasts.

“Students are immersed in science,” sais Amy Senato, Mansfield’s science coordinator for kindergarten through sixth grade. “We teach them we don’t just learn in the classroom. We learn everywhere.”

With the life-cycle grant, students could read in their classes about the developmental stages of birds or other animals. Then they’d come to the library and see a baby bird warming in an incubator or witness a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.

The real goal of these interactive life-cycle lessons is to hatch in their minds a love of learning about science, Senato said. Similarly, she said, the weather activities should stimulate students’ curiosity about the natural world.

They’ll get to monitor high and low temperatures at various points of the school day. They’ll learn to track wind speed and air pressure. They’ll get to know how to read a rain gauge. And they’ll discover how to identify different types of cloud formations and what kind of weather each cloud type predicts.

Instead of wondering why tornadoes formed or how it could be 70 and sunny on a Friday and 25 on the following Monday with sleet on the ground, the students will begin to understand what factors go into the often rapidly-changing conditions they encounter.

“They can’t go a day without noticing the weather or commenting on something about it,” Senato said. “Especially here in Texas you never know what kind of weather you’ll get.”

Kostel’s library can be just as unpredictable as the weather. But teachers can rely on her to use activities and lessons in the library that build on key concepts taught in the classroom.

“So much of what we do ties into their classroom,” Kostel said. “It helps to support what the teachers are doing. That’s a really important part of my job every day. … We’re not just the Bookmobile anymore.”

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