When you look in the schoolyard at Adamsville Elementary, it's looking more and more like a farmyard.
"Our fifth graders are teaching our second graders how to compost and we are using our garden beds as a soil experiment. We sent the soil off to Auburn University for testing first back in the fall and now we are changing the soil in different ways to see what soil amendment will help," said Ashley Kizer, a teacher at Adamsville.
When Kizer talks about a project, in reality, it's more like a production that can keep students engaged for weeks and even a whole semester. Last year it was building a chicken coop. It's never just as simple as building a chicken coop because his fifth graders had figured out the dimensions using math and engineering, researched all the materials they would need, figured out how much those materials would cost, and filled out real purchase orders. All of that happened before students built that coop and then painted it.
Kizer is convinced that interactive learning is key to getting students excited about reaching state standards and what's more, they are learning even when they don't know they are learning. That includes learning compassion and empathy.
"The students love the chickens. They've named them. They've told us where eggs come from. That's interesting because a lot of our students didn't know where eggs come from. They thought they came from the grocery store. This spring we're hoping we can learn how to cook eggs and take things from the garden and do some food preparation in the classroom," said Kizer.
The composting is another tool to teach beyond science concepts.
"We are using things like measurement skills, applied mathematics, science. Composting is a tiny ecosystem. So we use how it relates to science and math using things that actually matter in our lives," said Kizer.
It's also a community effort. COWACO donated the new barn and seeds while Lowe's provided the raised beds that will hold the fruits and veggies that grow this spring.
Principal Susan Remick says it's working. Adamsville Elementary scored a B on the latest state schools report card.
"We are a title one school which means approximately 80 percent of our students are on free and reduced lunch. We have students who are living in poverty right now. We have parents who are struggling. So students who are coming from homes are not as advantaged as maybe some of the over the mountain schools, but are still achieving at great heights," said Remick.
Principal Remick is happy with the B grade but says she does not approve of grading schools based on a test given on one day because she says it doesn't give a true picture of what is really going on in the classroom.
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