Nicole Jacobsen
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Imagine a science curriculum that integrates classroom lectures, hands-on experiments, iPads, and special “Science Nights,” all with the guidance of your own instructor from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Next, mix in projects that include raising Monarch butterflies, interactive tours of Texas, and live demonstrations of digestive systems, and you have a learning environment perfect for promoting intellectual discovery.

The Perot Museum and the Episcopal School of Dallas have created a learning partnership that allows young scientists to soar to even greater heights. The foundation is simple: partner with teachers to bring the Museum to classrooms, allow students to explore concepts at an experiential level, and develop a deeper understanding of the world of nature and science.

“We want to encourage students’ natural curiosity while making science fun and accessible,” says Marc Horn, the ESD-Perot Museum Coordinator. “Students learn concepts in the classroom, engage in hands-on activities, and expand on those lessons at the Perot Museum.”

Horn, who has worked with the Museum since January, joined the ESD faculty in August. Since then, he has become fully immersed in ESD’s already abounding Lower School science curriculum, working alongside Laura Talbot, ESD’s Lower School science liaison, to foster a variety of hands-on experiments.

“In all the lessons, students take information they already know, ask questions, collect data, and then work together to interpret the data,” Horn explained. “ESD teachers do an exemplary job of fostering a curious state of mind that makes students of all ages eager to learn more.”

This year, the partnership has identified a project at each grade level within the ESD curriculum to further examine. For example, first graders were engaged in raising Monarch butterflies that students hoped to release and track the movement of using a tagging program. Horn and Talbot are facilitating student learning on how to research the appropriate plants and environmental factors necessary to ensure Monarch butterflies’ survival including an updated memorial butterfly garden and Monarch way station.

“ESD classrooms are full of wonderful ideas, as children experiment to build knowledge and test hypotheses,” Talbot said. “Students notice opportunities to frame questions, postulate hypotheses, and create verifiable experiments to test these ideas. Our relationship with the Perot Museum helps support this process by providing additional resources and perspective.”

In October, third graders ate bread and crackers to see first-hand how mechanical and chemical digestion works. Earlier in the year, fourth graders researched and built a series of projects utilizing Edmodo to exchange information between student learning partners that created virtual tours of Texas, including presentations about the weather, geology, and demography of the state.

Three Science Nights will be held on the Lower School campus throughout the school year to provide opportunities to engage in ESD’s science curriculum. The first event on November 7 is for all Pre-El families and will thematically focus on super heroes. Students, ages 3 to 6, will discover the real science of super heroes as they explore energy, forces and motion, smart materials, magnetism, levitation, x-ray vision, lasers, and properties of light. In addition to two Super Hero Science presentations by the Perot Museum, discovery centers will line the Pre-Elementary halls and Perot  Science night activities and exhibits will fill the Dining Commons allowing ESD’s youngest students to measure, analyze, propose hypotheses, predict, design, build, test, model, and imagine within a wide variety of scientific topics.

“Science Night is the perfect opportunity for our community to celebrate a child’s capacity for ‘wonder’ and to deploy them to build, take apart, sort, name, compare in unique ways,” Chelle Wabrek, ESD’s Assistant Head of Lower School, said. “Super powers have long captured the imagination of children all over the world. To examine the scientific magic of inimitability and levitation make us all super heroes.”

The partnership between ESD and the Museum encourages and applauds the innate “scientist” in every student.

“Everything within this partnership is really a team effort based on the teachers’ lesson plans,” Horn, who has completed course requirements toward a Ph.D. in Education from Texas A&M, said. “ESD is an amazing school where we have the opportunity to not only expand on what we’re teaching the students, but then investigate how we can carry them forward. There is always something more that can be done, our job is to find out what else our students can learn in the classroom and at the Museum.”

The benefits of ESD’s partnership with the Perot Museum are expected to be off the chart.

“ESD’s relationship with the Perot Museum is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving,” Wabrek said. “As our Museum Coordinator invests his time in our teachers, they are gaining additional expertise and efficacy to act as scientists themselves. Everyone, from our most seasoned educators to our youngest Beginners, is further developing the mindset of designers and innovators who are eager, like super heroes, to make the world a better place.”

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