Students take on project based learning in science class


Annabella Mi

Cinemark model made by Elias Joseph, Jaydan Howard, Aris Middix, Areya Sanders, and Destiny Maxwell.

Annabella Mi, News Editor

Since March 20 7th graders have been constructing models of Kerrytown to Cinemark to strip malls and proving how they can apply the topics that they were taught: the life cycle of a plant, the process of photosynthesis, how and why flowers get pollinated, and the process of fertilization. Science teacher, Lea Kotlinski, has been teaching for around 10 years and contributing to the Clague community as a science educator.

“Science has to be manipulative,” Kotlinski said. “In order to really learn a scientific concept you have to be able to build something in real life—it’s analyzing and using data to explore the world us.”

In 7th and 8th grade, they have been using the science concepts they have learned so far and applied them in big projects, linking them to real world problems. 

“I love making learning project based,” Kotlinski said. “It gives kids a chance to use engineering skills and problem solving skills to solve a real world issue.”

The big project concludes on April 24., having Clague staff and students be encouraged to come in the classroom the following day after the completion of the project. 17 different models will be displayed, all built to favor local districts and neighborhoods, and be educated of the model’s objective on how vegetation will profit Ann Arbor; the leading choice will win a “million dollars.”

“I have had students come back from previous years and tell me how much they still remember this project,” Kotlinski said. 

What has also certainly made its impression as a memorable project, was the 8th grader’s recent activity. To culminate the month and a half long unit on electricity and magnetism, a project on executing the learning objectives betided. 

Participants of the project had to develop a design, capable of arranging into an arcade game, using electricity and magnetism to function. Afterwards, Clague staff and students were invited to trial and traverse through the arcade.

“The 8th grade project really has the kids to really build something from scratch,” Kotlinski said. “They can take whatever idea they want to build and make it a playable fun game.”

An idea that was conceived and built was a skee ball game, constructed with circuits. This is so that when the ball arrives in the hole, the lights would pulse a consistent pattern of flashes, as well as the magnets weaved into the composition of the game, so the balls obtained would issue out from an exit.

“The variety of projects that the 8th graders chose was really interesting,” Kotlinski said. “ We had everything from skee ball to Donkey Kong.”

Yes, Donkey Kong, a millennial’s childhood game during the weekend. Though in this contemporary model, the machine operates on wires, circuitry and electromagnets — utilizing the circuits to create a network: the circuits connecting to a raspberry pie linked to a laptop, performing as a functional game, where no person has yet to vanquish it. But being able to accomplish such elaborate projects starts from 6th grade.

“Each year in Clague we build on the previous year’s knowledge,” Kotlinski said.  “For  example in 6th grade, thermal energy will connect to 7th grade chemistry, which will connect to 8th grade physics — 6th grade cells [applies to] … 7th grade [when] we learn about how cells impact the body.”

6th grade is the start of learning a new concept in science, but those concepts carry on to 7th grade, 8th grade, etc., adding onto knowledge each year.  One of those important concepts building up each year is cells. 

6th graders were introduced to a new unit in early April: cells and systems. The start of this unit being a case study: a young man who dropped a weight on his foot, which caused a bone fracture to transpire. From there, 6th graders would be educated on how cells are responsible for how we grow, how we heal, and pass on genetic information

“I think that the unit has been very educational and is accelerating my comprehension on cells,,” 6th grader Noemie Wurster-Dillard said.

The 25 day long unit that 6th graders are partaking in, teaches from the difference of plant cells and animal cells to investigating blood smears, bone cells and skin cells under a microscope to singing “The Microscope Song” written by 6th and 7th grade science teacher  Jennifer Inaba. 

This unit concludes as a test and a model, demonstrating the 6th grader’s knowledge with the new concepts introduced during the course of four  weeks, cells and systems were taught. 

“6th grade scientists are lots of fun because they wonder about everything,” 6th and 8th grade Clague science teacher Gretchen Hahn said. “One of the nice things about teaching 6th grade science is that they expect to learn and have fun, so they do.”

This applies widely to Clague as well. In Clague, science is taught through big tactile projects all the way to ending a unit by making ice cream, a 28-year old tradition made by Grethen Hahn. 

“Science helps us to look at the world a way we have never looked at before,” Kotlinski said. “What we do here at Clague with science allows us to interpret our world and be constantly amazed by it.”