SHS class teaches science to Pumpkin Patch kids

By: 
Derek Spellman

A youngster in the 4-year-old kindergarten program hosted by Pumpkin Patch Preschool gives a plastic wind turbine a whirl last week. The preschoolers learned about subjects like wind power, green construction, recycling and solar power from a group of Stoughton High School students who use part of their environmental science course at the high school to teach the youths. [Photos by Derek Spellman]

Stoughton High School senior Tony Volk demonstrates solar power to a group of Pumpkin Patch preschoolers.

Stoughton High School seniors Sophie Auerswald and  Katerina Patrinos decided to use clay to help explain the concept of hydroelectric power to a group of 4- and 5-year olds last week.

In a recap of the presentation, the pair told the Hub that the youngsters “caught on pretty quickly” but that “we’re going to do more playing with the clay” next time, Auerswald said.

Using clay to illustrate how a dam works. Using a lamp to cook hot dogs and marshmallows to show how the sun works. Using small wind turbines to demonstrate how wind power works.

It’s part of the process for SHS science teacher Amy Hermanson’s environmental science class, which allows its students to engage in role reversal several times a semester at Pumpkin Patch Preschool.

Continuing a program started last year, the students in Hermanson’s class – the “big kids” – cross the street and become science teachers at Pumpkin Patch. Over several weeks, the students spend part of one morning each week to present activities tied in with lessons being taught at Pumpkin Patch’s four-year-old kindergarten program.

“I love the idea of big kids coming down and helping little kids,” Hermanson said.
The program started last semester as a partnership between the high school and Pumpkin Patch, said Pumpkin Patch teacher Lisa Jackson.

“I do my very best to reach out to the high school,” said Jackson, who helped create the partnership. “I’d like to see that collaboration.”

The SHS students spend time drawing up lessons, Hermanson said. This month, the theme at Pumpkin Patch is “green construction,” so SHS students came up with ideas about building, energy and recycling, among others. One group of students originally wanted to use lights to cook a pizza as simulation of solar power, although time constraints forced them to revise it down to cooking hot dogs and marshmallows.

“I let my big kids run with it as much as possible,” Hermanson said.

The preparation includes students using the Internet to research children education websites. Hermanson said the SHS students also write a pre-paper about the lesson, where they first frame a topic in “big kid” terms but then have to boil it down to “little kid” terms that will be understandable to younger students.

“It forces them to think about it in two different ways,” Hermanson said.

The students visited Pumpkin Patch last week and were scheduled to do so again this week and once more next week.

Increasing community partnerships is one of the key areas of focus for the Stoughton Area School District. A group of high school students last month organized a “technology expo” for senior citizens, for example, to help with questions about computers, computer tablets, cell phones and social media.
Creating more partnerships is a vital part of the new long-range strategic plan the district has devised.

“This is what the district is promoting,” Jackson said of the Pumpkin Patch partnership. “It was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.”