Science can be an amazing thing, but students need enough room to expand their learning potential. At Lincoln HI Elementary School in Hendricks, Principal Shelly Jensen realized that and initiated a new science lab.
"In early October, I asked (science teacher) Sharon Evert if she'd be interested in having a new lab," Jensen said. "In addition to the wonderful ideas Mrs. Evert brings to our science curriculum, Hendricks has a great environment attribute with Lake Hendricks just blocks away from the school. So now we have a brand new lab."
The project entailed moving the sixth-grade classroom, but went smoothly and commenced on Oct. 25th. Evert, a fifth-grade teacher who also instructs fourth-sixth-grade science, said that the students really enjoy doing labs now.
"The kids are always asking to do the experiments," Evert said. "With the new standards, I'm trying to incorporate more engineering into things. I've noticed that the more labs you do with hands-on experiments, the more kids love science. They love doing research, doing inquiries and taking experiments further."
On Monday, students started making balloon rocket cars.
"We do a lot of physics in sixth grade," Evert said. "Now it's really got the engineering component. I let them design their own cars, which are balloon-powered. The students have to use straws and tie the three laws of motion into their cars. The students love it."
Next week, students will have the opportunity to design their own roller coasters.
Before the new lab came about, Evert's fifth-grade classroom doubled as the science room, which had some limitations.
"The accessibility is much better now," Evert said. "There are two sinks, a counter and some used lab tables. The students used to have to run out to the bathroom to use a sink. Sometimes our labs would take 2-3 days, too, and we'd have experiments lying all over my classroom. Now things don't get disturbed."
Evert also had to store most of her equipment in tubs upstairs.
"I couldn't have all those tubs in my classroom," she said. "If I forgot something, I'd have to run back upstairs every time. But I was able to move all my science equipment to cupboards now."
Along with a refrigerator, three microwaves were donated to the lab for use. In the future, Evert would like to purchase new lab tables and more equipment.
"The students have been learning about DNA, physics, weather, energy, matter and engineering in the lab," Jensen said. "We have our core classes in the afternoon and Sharon teaches the science. The youngest kids can also use the labs if their classroom teacher wants to."
With ample space of their own now, Lincoln HI Elementary students have begun to house new critters, including a hamster, guinea pig, gerbil, fish, frogs and even a preying mantis that laid an egg sac, which students are hoping will hatch in the spring.
"The kids love the animals," Evert said. "It's such a great place to learn."
Once functioning, the school decided that the lab needed a namesake. With the recent retirement of Sharon Peterson after nearly 34 years in education, the decision was made to dedicate the lab after Peterson.
"Sharon was chosen because she has been a supporter of Lincoln HI academics for 33 years," Jensen said. "Future junior Rebels will be able to inquire who Sharon Peterson is and we can report that she gave a majority of her life to Lincoln HI staff and students."
Right now, Superintendent Bruce Houck is in the process of finding science grants.
"Nowadays, schools are trying to set themselves apart from each other," Jensen said. "We have such a unique setting here with a lake right in our own town. It is easy access for lab experiments, so we're currently trying to find environmental grants for it."
In addition, a web cam will be purchased soon so that parents and community members can watch labs in action.
"I have to give Shelly a lot of credit," Evert said. "She wanted to do something special for elementary students at Lincoln HI. She came up with the idea. I love it and the students love it."