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West Elementary second graders in Jan Goodrich's class recently visited Dr. Charles Lamb's biology laboratory at Black Hills State to study samples of insects and stream life. Examining a poster of stream life are, left Shaunna Farwell, Eddie Cole, and Carson Christofferson. The students were locating examples on the poster similar to the ones they had just viewed under the microscope. The students' visit is part of the $1.4 million BLAHST project at BHSU that is designed to help teachers and students learn science through inquiry-based instruction.

Summer science workshop for teachers carries over to classroom learning

An intensive four-day summer workshop for local elementary teachers was a `blast' and now students in the classroom are reaping the benefits of `BLAHST,' an acronym for the `Black Hills Science Teaching Project' to Prepare K-8 Teachers for the New Millennium.

The summer workshop taught by Dr. Charles Lamb, lead scientist for BLAHST and associate professor of biology at BHSU, took the teachers through a review of scientific inquiry with a focus on central themes in biology, current trends, environmental education, research and curriculum implementation.

Lamb said the philosophy of the class was what the BLAHST project is all about—“teaching science by doing science.”

That is exactly what is happening now in the elementary classroom, except now the teachers are applying what they learned in the hands-on inquiry-based workshop to teach their students about science.

Jan Goodrich, a second-grade teacher at West Elementary in Spearfish, said, “We learned about water quality and life in Spearfish Creek. This tied in well with our local science program, FOSS (Full Option Science System).”

Using the new approach, second grade classes including Goodrich and her students visited Lamb and the university science laboratory this fall. They observed insects through microscopes and experienced firsthand the principles of inquiry-based teaching.

“He (Lamb) encouraged the children to use their minds to explore what they saw instead of asking him for pat answers about the material,” said Goodrich.

The second graders studied mosquito and black fly larva, worms, moss, and caddisfly larva as well as insects found in their own yards and at Salem Park and at the Outdoor Learning Center. Students viewed eyes of a bee and dragonfly, as well as the legs and antenna of other insects.

According to Goodrich, the students were enthused about their science experience at the BHSU lab and “came away feeling like they can and would like to become scientists.”

Goodrich was among several area teachers involved in the summer workshop focusing on water quality and life in Spearfish Creek.

“All second graders will benefit from the information we received from Dr. Lamb and Tom Mead (a Spearfish seventh grade science teacher, who assisted with the workshop presentation),” said Goodrich. “We are looking forward to using the scientists from Black Hills State to help with our next project.”

Goodrich is one of several teachers serving as lead teachers by taking their workshop experiences back to schools and sharing the information with other teachers and students. They will do this through workshop presentations and curriculum development.

What started out as a “blast” for teachers doing research in Spearfish Creek, has become a “blast” for area second graders as they gain hands-on science experience passed on to them by an enthusiastic and caring group of professionals.

The BLAHST project at BHSU is funded by a $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant and designed to improve K-8 teachers' abilities to deliver high quality, inquiry-based science teaching.

The BLAHST project in an ongoing five-year project involving eight area school districts.

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