04/05/13 — Teacher learns from students

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Teacher learns from students

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 5, 2013 1:46 PM


Wayne Country Day School seventh-grade students Jasmine Jones, 13, left, and Zan Pittman, 13, right, help to manicure the grass around a small artificial river in Kathie Hooks' seventh-grade science class Thursday morning.

Sometimes even veteran teachers step back and learn from their students.

Kathie Hooks admits she took that approach during a recent lesson with her science students at Wayne Country Day School.

For the past few years, she has been the beneficiary of Tri-County Bright Ideas grants that helped enhance science projects in her seventh and eighth grade classes.

Last year's funding helped build up the "hydroponics system" -- allowing plants to water themselves in a non-soil environment -- and greenhouses for a garden that was started the year before that.

This year's $1,000 grant, "Growing Knowledge Living Ecology," added another layer to the ecology lab.

Students began working on gardening and terrariums in November.

But sometimes it is through failed efforts that other ideas are born.

A seventh-grader is credited with being the "brains behind the grass," Mrs. Hooks said.

"It was Sam Smith who came up with the idea. We originally planted grass and it wasn't coming up," she said. "Sam said, 'Let's put another layer of soil.'"

The ultimate purpose of the project was to focus on sustaining the water supply for the future, Mrs. Hooks said.

"I thought, what better way than to build a river?" she said.

Students compared notes and collectively came up with creative ways to add to the project.

"A house gutter forms the bottom of the river," Mrs. Hooks pointed out. "Alex Etheridge has been our mechanical engineering. He provided tubing.

"James Thompson brought duct tape for the retaining wall. We used distilled water. We were disappointed in the depth of the water. James said to block it up. Now we have got some nice depth."

James estimated he brought in about six gallons of water for the project.

"The idea of the dam I had (raised the tubing) to block it up. Someone else had the idea of rocks," he said, demonstrating the concept of blocking the flow of water.

The way students pooled their resources and collaborated on the effort was impressive, their teacher said.

"This is my 39th year of teaching and I have literally walked across the room and said, 'Y'all figure it out,'" she said.

The class also had the benefit of a field expert.

"We have adopted a farmer, or a farmer has adopted us," she said. "Reggie Strickland (a student's father) comes out and helps us with anything we're having a problem with."

The next step for the students will be lab tests, she added.

"Kids will conduct experiments to see sustainability," she said.