Practical science works appear in real life

Mark Jackson Burt County Plaindeal

A presentation on studying elementary science quickly turned into a study on studying science for the Tekamah-Herman School Board last week.

At its November 14 meeting, the board heard a presentation from elementary science teacher Holly Loftis on a project her students recently completed. To conclude a section on energy, her students worked in teams of two or three to create an energy system. Students would test their theories two or three times before giving it a final try, taking notes during the tests to see what works and what doesn’t, then making adjustments. At the end, teams write a conclusion explaining why their system worked best.

Part of this job is to draw a line graph, on paper, to show their improvements.

“I know it’s 2022 and you could do this on a computer,” Loftis said, “but you have to use your brain more to put it on paper.”

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Loftis said the energy study is now turning into a weather study, “how heat and cold work together,” Loftis said.

A question about how the activity matched state standards quickly turned into a discussion about the program. The science department, Gross said, is on the list to be replaced for the next school year.

Loftis said the work helps students achieve one of four standards at the elementary level. The other three are sent quarterly. She said the standards were adopted three years ago, but it takes a certain amount of creativity to pull together all the information a teacher needs and then put it into practice in the classroom. “Kids love the hands-on,” she said, but you also have to balance that with the books.”

What is taught in the books is what a curriculum search is. Gross said it can take an entire year to figure out what a district is looking for, even by looking.

“There were only two or three companies that were selling degree programs,” he said. “Now that each state has its own standards, it is more difficult to determine which version will meet the most standards, where we will get the most bang for our buck.”

This is where the adults use many of the same methods as the science students at Loftis.

She said district science teachers were already starting to compile lists of things they liked and disliked about particular curriculum lines. They also talk with teachers from other districts to find out what works for them and what doesn’t.

“Also, what works for me might not work at the middle school or high school level,” Loftis said.

She said there were several options on the market. “There’s usually one way out in left field, but among the others, the differences can be minimal. It depends on what you want as a school district.

Finding the right fit is important not only educationally, but also economically. Gross said a complete K-12 science program can run up to $100,000.

Science standards are not measured in the early elementary grades like reading, for example, so the cost of a line of science textbooks would likely be less.

In other business at its November 10 meeting, the school board:

—Local substitute teaching certifications approved for Anna Wakehouse and Sarah Braniff.

Gross said after approval he will contact the state Department of Education and as long as the two meet other department requirements, including a certain amount of college credit, they will become eligible to teach here. A replacement is limited to 40 days of work in any school district and must be approved by each district where they applied to work.

Wakehouse is currently a student. Braniff is an elementary school paraeducator.

Gross said the two would make good additions to the district’s backup roster.

“We don’t use all of our substitutes all the time,” he said, “but having more substitutes gives our constituents more flexibility.”

—Approved the annual audit.

Gross said district auditors had no concerns about the district’s accounting procedures.

“The one thing they emphasize, and all districts our size have, is the division of labor,” Gross said.

In smaller districts, such as Tekamah-Herman, one person is usually in charge of bookkeeping and payroll duties.

“We are diligent in ensuring invoices and payroll are reviewed by more than one person,” Gross said.

Steps are also being taken to distribute money management tasks among staff. For example, one person will prepare a bank deposit and another will carry out the transaction. Two signatures are also required on all district checks.

-Approved an official announcement by the Nebraska Association of Rural Community Schools naming a vacant administrative position in Tekamah-Herman. Approval is the first step in the process of finding a new superintendent. Gross announced in October that he planned to retire at the end of the school year.

Once the announcement is made public, association representatives will begin screening candidates and present the school board with a list of candidates who would be best suited for the district. The school board would then interview the finalists, and anyone else it might choose to interview, and appoint a successor.

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