Mining chocolate from dough
Appleton teacher wins national acclaim for fostering love of science
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
Among the greatest rewards for teacher Betty Ehret is seeing children develop a love for science.
"I don't want them to just like it, but to love it," she said.
Ehret, who teaches sixth grade science and literature at St. Joseph Middle School in Appleton, developed a program, entitled "Teaching Our Preschool Science Buddies," to introduce science lessons to children at an early age. Each month she brings her science class to St. Pius X Elementary School in Appleton, where the sixth graders serve as instructors and tutors for the morning preschool classes.
Ehret's program recently received national acclaim. She was one of 50 teachers in the United States selected to receive the Lysol/NSTA Science and Your Health Award. Lysol brand and the National Science Teachers Association sponsor the award, which recognizes educators who stimulate interest and participation in the learning of science. Ehret received $1,000 to attend the NSTA National Convention in San Diego, March 27-30. She will also receive $500 to purchase materials to use for her project.
Ehret, who is in her 25th year of teaching, developed the program seven years ago. She is in her second year at St. Joseph.
"Our principal, Tony Abts, has been very supportive," she said. "The award is nice because we can really use the money for the project. I've relied on volunteers."
To capture the attention of the preschoolers, Ehret and the sixth grade instructors use creative teaching methods. For example, to demonstrate mining, the three and four-year-olds explored chocolate chip cookies, mining the chips from the dough. Other planned lessons include building a simple electrical circuit, planting flowers, making sidewalk chalk and observing a butterfly's life cycle. The lessons are prepared by the students under Ehret's guidance and cover concepts the sixth graders have learned in their science classes.
"Some even involve chemistry," said Ehret. "When making chalk out of plaster of Paris, the students see a chemical reaction. The interaction between the students is wonderful. I've been very happy with the rapport. It's important to get the children to enjoy science. We use poetry or songs to help the children remember what they have learned."
The program also provides a good learning experience for the sixth graders, added Ehret.
"They learn how to communicate with the preschool students," she said. "They feel good about helping them. They enjoy it. It's been a good partnership."