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Luca Munoz, a kindergarten student at Gullett, gets up close and personal with a fossil held by Meghan Murphy of the South Florida Museum at STEM night.
East County Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015 7 years ago

SIDE OF RANCH: JAY HEATER

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Hey, the mosquito larvae is only one room over
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Blame it on the field trip.

My first crush came when I was in fourth grade. It was Mrs. White, our teacher at Minisink Valley.

Our school class went to Museum Village in Monroe, N.Y. and by the bus trip home, I was so hooked that I sat on Mrs. White's lap.

Perhaps it all happened because I was so happy. Museum Village was a replica village that explored life in the 1800s by using historical dress and reenactments and with buildings modeled after that time period.

A lot was in the works for a fifth grader. You could see and touch the things you were learning about, and you got out of class for the entire day. It was heaven.

The crush on Mrs. White didn't last, but the lesson did. I learned that if you wanted to keep a kid's attention, you needed to change things up at times. Back then, it wasn't very often that you strayed from the routine.

I would imagine that Gullett Elementary teacher Charlotte Latham is somebody who sees a beaten path as trampled and not so much as smooth sailing. My guess is that she was the kind of kid who touched when the sign said, "Do not touch!"

Latham, a fifth-grade science teacher, ran the school's STEM and the Community Night, on Nov. 10. For those of you, like me, who need an alphabet soup dictionary, that's science, technology, engineering and math.

This night was a plain, cool experience as Latham lined up 11 organizations to build little touchy-feely exhibits that the elementary kids could absorb. By absorb, I am talking about putting your hands right into the goo.

These exhibits were set up in classrooms and the cafeteria. The kids would play at one spot until their attention span crumbled, then would race off to another room. The entire program was 60 minutes in length, so even the ones who hustled probably didn't see it all.

On the way out, I could hear the parents' one complaint.

"I wish it was longer. We didn't have enough time to see everything."

This was the second STEM night arranged by Latham after she debuted with a spring semester event. "It was well-received," she said. "The parents and students wanted more."

Why not? This was taking the kids off the beaten path, allowing them to stray from the routine.

"The concept is to show careers and jobs in our community that are STEM related," Latham said. "We will have another one in the spring that will be based around water."

Somebody is going to get wet.

Last week, as I poked my head into different rooms, I saw the students playing with fossils, mosquito larvae, dental scrubs, robotic vehicles and finger printing pads. I felt like cutting in line so I could have a turn.

"Just the enthusiasm it creates is worth it," Latham said. "You see the kids walking around in doctor's outfits and peering at the mosquitos. Is it all curriculum-based? No."

Latham quickly pointed out that a long line of teachers and faculty members at Latham are involved with the project as well, and it takes them all to make it happen.

They all believe that one very important concept should be cherished at every school.

"There is a place for fun," Latham said.

You can bet that some kid out there has a crush on her.

 

 

 

 

 

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