Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2 female students doing a science activityWhen the school day is over, about 100 third, fourth and fifth graders come to Roper Mountain Science Center to participate in the Xplorers Program that is building their academic skills in science, math, and English.

two male students writing on a worksheetThe students, from Thomas E. Kerns Elementary and East North Street Academy, spend three hours a day, five days a week in the program. “They start the afternoon with a snack and recreational activities to burn off the energy they’ve built up during the school day,” said Becky McLaughlin, director of the Xplorer Program. “Students rotate through tutoring and science classes, taught by Greenville County School teachers, as they build thinking skills, problem-solving strategies, and reading comprehension.”

Freddrick Harris, a fourth grader at Thomas E. Kerns Elementary, said, “We have a memory detail statement we learn at the beginning of class, then at the end of class we answer questions about what we learned in the statement. It helps me at school because I can do my multiplication faster.”

female teacher with a group of students doing an outside rocket launch activityThe science lessons focus on topics such as astronomy, natural and physical sciences, earth and marine sciences, engineering, living history, and health and wellness. Fourth grader Piper Clymer, who attends East North Street Academy, said she enjoys learning how to build with Legos and how to make motors run. “We learned that without the right materials, our project won’t work. If you don’t have a motor for the boat, the boat won’t sail back and forth,” she explained.

Germany Mora, a fifth grader from East North Street Academy, participated in a lesson about how force makes things move. “We built rockets and launched them,” she said. “My rocket flew but I am going to make it stronger by closing the holes so there is more pressure to make it go higher.”

Anecdotal assessments have been made by the instructors, school liaisons, and parents. “We are hearing wonderful things about the program,” said McLaughlin. “Teachers are noticing a difference in the students, and parents who visit on Second Saturdays have told me how much their children love the program.” A formal assessment will be conducted in February.

student writing on a worksheet“I am very proud and excited to see the early success of this program,” said RMSC Board member Chuck Saylors. “The students are showing impressive signs of progress. I am very grateful to the staff for their hard work in providing our students with such a positive learning environment.”

Roper Mountain Science Center uses its unique teaching facilities including a tropical rain forest, a planetarium, a living history farm, nature trails, ecology and marine labs, chemistry, physics, engineering and robotics labs, a weather center and an observatory with the eighth largest refractor telescope of its kind in the nation. Lessons incorporate non-fiction, science-related reading, and activities that highlight the use of math in data collection and analysis. Science lessons change each week and allow students to explore all areas of scientific inquiry offered at Roper Mountain.

The Xplorers Program is funded by a four-year 21st Century grant, with about $300,000 of in-kind funds provided by the Center and GCS over the same period. The program will also operate four hours each day for four days a week for four weeks during the summer.

Partners for the Xplorers Program include GCS, Roper Mountain Science Center, Thomas E. Kerns Elementary, and East North Street Academy.

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