Students attentively listened as science teacher Ann Shioji explained a fossil-building exercise during the four-week Stepping Up to Science (STEPS) program at Yerba Buena High School. The fossil activity was one of many hands-on learning exercises that the STEPS curriculum offered. Through a 75-hour summer program, the Biology prep class engaged students through query-based exercises.
Students focused on the fossil building project, as Ms. Shioji circled the classroom answering questions. Wendy, an incoming ninth grade student, loved the hands-on part of the class. “I enjoyed the fossil program because we got to go out and collect items and later analyze them under a microscope.”
Yesenia Ortega, a STEPS teaching assistant, said she felt the exercises were more useful than textbook handouts. “I think it’s a lot better than flat out reading from a textbook, students receive hands-on experience and the visuals help them learn more effectively.”
Students later stretched their legs through an outdoor scientific experiment, which tested each student’s hypothesis on whether it was faster to run while upright or on four legs, like a primate. Using stopwatches to time each other, students concluded that it was much faster running with two legs. “It gives the students a good opportunity to get their blood flowing while it also engages them to think scientifically,” commented Yesenia.
Ms. Shioji reiterated the need for inquiry-based curriculum which she feels is the ideal teaching style for all learning levels. “Rather than reading a textbook about fossils, the activity engages the students and allows them to tell me what the fossils are telling them with the use of academic language.”
Ms. Shioji added, “A lot of the students didn’t have supplies like binders and pencils; but thanks to SVEF we now do, we couldn’t have done it without you.”
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