Peshtigo science students

Peshtigo sophomore Faith Rich tests a model cell as Ella Stibbe and Annabelle Smith observe in Keith LeMahieu’s biology class.

PESHTIGO—Masking and social distancing have created new challenges at school. Students and staff are interacting much less than normal and finding it difficult to communicate like they used to.

Because teaching and learning are restricted, teachers everywhere have had to change techniques and adapt. Everyone at school has to be more diligent than ever before—including teachers, students and staff. Students especially need to communicate, move and interact to achieve maximum learning potential. At Peshtigo Middle/High School, three science teachers taught hands-on science labs recently to improve student’s comprehension on various topics.

Engaging the students in this way helps them retain more information and make each lesson memorable.

During a week at the end of January, 7th grade science teacher Scott Reilly taught the structure of our solar system. Reilly used a gravity simulator for students to demonstrate the relationship between gravity and motion that keeps planets in orbit around the sun. He showed students why Earth has the place it has in our solar system and how the Earth interacts with other objects in space.

“The physical, hands-on labs help students see first-hand how variables interact, and what happens when we change a variable,” Reilly said. “Kids learn better when they are happy and excited to be at school.”

Eighth graders have been learning all about work, power, and machines as concepts in physics. Science teacher Ted Rauch explains that students calculated how much work and power they generated moving up a flight of stairs.

“Some students actually generated more than 1.0 horsepower which is 746 watts,” Rauch said, adding that more students understand concepts when they learn in a lab format. “Hands-on/ minds-on learning is more concrete and helps take science out of a textbook and into real life. I want to make a difficult subject more understandable and help students see how it relates to their lives.”

Peshtigo sophomore biology students have been learning about cell structure and function. Biology teacher Keith LaMahieu taught the role of each structure within living cells.

“Students had to monitor what substances moved across permeable membranes, and which direction they moved to apply their knowledge of diffusion and osmosis,” he said. “All students learn better when they get to physically or visually experience a concept.”

LeMahieu emphasises that understanding of cell structure and function is critical to the understanding of the survival of all living things and a knowledge base necessary for upper level biology classes.

“Hands-on labs allow students to better visualize and create more concrete understanding of concepts that can be very abstract,” he said.

Students really seem to enjoy having the hands-on learning approach with their science classes.

Seventh grader Neela Sotka said, “When kids have more fun and are more interested they learn more.”

Sophomore Trevor Marquardt said that hands-on experiments in biology “really helped me learn about diffusion and osmosis.”

Sophomore Faythe Rich agrees that interactive labs “helps her brain comprehend better.”

According to sophomore Ella Stibbe, another thing that makes learning fun is “sometimes the experiment goes a different way than we planned.”

Seventh grade student Jonah Sieracki emphasized that he “gets a better understanding of how things work” by doing these experiments in the physical lab format.

Alissa Mullins from eighth grade, states that “labs make up some of my favorite school memories.”