DMS Students Share Science With Elementary Classes

Cell "Farm"

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Denair Middle School science students became the teachers for a few minutes Friday morning, explaining the concepts of cellular structure to their elementary counterparts.

Seventh-graders from two of Barry Cole’s biology classes built elaborate replicas of farms, military bases, an Old West town and even a futuristic community to help with their 15-minute presentations.

A farmhouse became the cell’s “nucleus,” a silo was the “cell wall,” cattle and pigs were “ribosomes” and “lysosomes,” farmland became “cytoplasm” and the barn substituted as a “vacuole.”

The point, Cole explained, was to find “real-life applications for what these students are expected to know” as part of their life sciences instruction.

“On the very first day of class, I told them science is part of their everyday lives,” Cole said. “What we did today is part of Common Core. They are expected to not just understand what an organelle is, but what an organelle does.”

The seventh-graders spent most of the past month working on their projects and constructing their models. Friday morning, 12 teams of four or five students carried their work across the street to the elementary campus, ready to impart all they have learned in classes of first- to fifth-graders.

The older students already had made oral presentations in front of each other in their own classes, but Cole required them to come up with a different way of explaining cell structure to their younger peers.

“If forces them to be more serious,” he said. “This helps them show me that they understand the subject matter.” Continue reading “DMS Students Share Science With Elementary Classes” »

Innovative Approach to Science Education Draws in DHS Students

Breanna Vaughan

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

A traditional physics teacher introducing Newton’s Second Law of Motion to her students might write this on a board in front of the class: “Force = Mass x Acceleration.”

Not Breanna Vaughan. She used a simple bathroom scale, her Toyota Tacoma and the muscle of some willing students to bring Newton’s theory to life.

So much for tradition.

“My approach to science is that I try to make it fun for students,” said Vaughan, who joined the staff at Denair High School this year. “Kids learn more when they’re having fun. I always try to have real-life applications for them. I try to emphasize what jobs might use the kind of science I’m teaching.”

For her lesson on Newton’s Second Law of Motion, Vaughan literally parked her white pickup in neutral on the pavement outside her classroom. Two students placed bathroom scales borrowed from the nearby gym and someone’s home against the truck’s front bumper and then leaned against them to make the pickup move. Other students kept notes about how far the truck rolled in a certain amount of time.

The exercise illustrated the concepts of “force” (measured in kilograms via the scales) and “acceleration” (measured in meters per second). From that, students were able to determine “mass” (how much the truck weighs).

In her anatomy/physiology class, Vaughan introduced the subject of tissue engineering – essentially, building “replacement” organs or body parts for people. She asked her junior and senior students to write an essay, requiring them to answer thought-provoking questions about a sometimes controversial topic.

“If your brother went off to war and lost his leg, would you want it? If your grandma needed heart tissue, would you want something new to make it beat?” Vaughan explained. “This is what I do. Tissues could be boring, but I try to make them think. We had a good discussion.” Continue reading “Innovative Approach to Science Education Draws in DHS Students” »

Breanna Vaughan Joins DHS Science Department

Breanna Vaughan

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Ms. Breanna Vaughan is Denair High School’s new science teacher. She is teaching Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, Physics, and Honors Biology this year. Ms. Vaughan graduated from CSU Stanislaus in 2007, with a degree in Biological Sciences. She taught high school science for three years outside Fresno.

Ms. Vaughan loves seeing students having fun and appreciating and learning science. This year she will focus on improving labs, bringing computers into the lab for virtual simulations and dissections, and developing benchmark assessments that measure student achievement in her courses.

At CSU Stanislaus, Ms. Vaughan was a three-sport athlete playing collegiate soccer, basketball, and running track and field.