Above and Beyond

Photo submitted by Kristin Zappie Kristin Zappie’s intermediate group of BEEEP students visited the SUNY Fredonia science center to tour the labs and increase their interest in STEM-related fields.

BROCTON — Walk the halls of any school after hours. Despite the time of day and the lack of young minds to mold, teachers are constantly staying late and keeping their noses to the grindstone, working on lesson plans, individualized teaching methods for students, activities and more. There’s no doubt that in every school one can find numerous educators dedicated to their craft — and Brocton Central School District would like to shine the spotlight on two of them.

Kristin Zappie is a supervisor of the Brocton Elementary Educational Enrichment Program (BEEEP), a program dedicated to getting students interested early on in the hard sciences and math; and Jodi Huber is a fourth grade teacher who has received her Level 1 Google Trainer Certificate. Together, they make up just a small portion of teachers who go above and beyond for their students.

In 2015, the White House released a press release saying that in the next decade, the United States will need more than one million STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professionals than are projected to graduate. With this information in mind, Brocton got to work, and formed BEEEP.

“It is easy to point to a program that another school is doing and say ‘Let’s do that.’ It takes real foresight and innovation to create a pioneer program,” said Zappie, BEEEP teacher for grades three to five.

So far this year, the intermediate grade BEEEP students have built multi-reactive hydraulic claws, an earthquake-simulating shake table, a “lava” lamp, and have begun a project that involves Newton’s Laws of Physics. They also had one board member join in and do a quick experiment involving polymer powder and water — which ended up with a pile of artificial snow.

In December 2016, the intermediate BEEEP students took a field trip to the SUNY Fredonia science building and visited the different science departments. The SUNY Fredonia Physics Club led the students in a hands-on experiment. They also toured the new state-of-the-art Science building.

“That field trip was amazing,” said Lillian Zappie, third grader. “We got to see what we could do with careers in science. The experiments we did with non-Newtonian fluids was great; they are a solid and liquid all at once. The science center is so cool – I want to major in chemistry when I go to college and I got to see two different chemistry labs.”

Right now, each student is working on The Scientist Project. Each BEEEP student was assigned a scientist who has made a significant contribution. They are studying and researching this scientist and creating a poster or Google Slide presentation about him or her — which ties in with BEEEP student’s appreciation for learning.

“I feel lucky because we get to do a lot of stuff involving science that I never would have had the chance to learn about,” said Christian Morello, a third grader who has a goal of becoming a paleontologist.

New York state does not provide funding for enrichment programs; few states do. Therefore, most districts don’t have educational programs for students working above grade level, especially in elementary school. Superintendent Jason Delcamp and elementary principal Sandra Olson saw this gap, and did something about it. Them, along with district clerk Linda Miller, were able to find the resources to give over 20 elementary students a head start on learning hard science and math concepts.

“We have bright, intelligent, interested students who have a yearning to learn. The science concepts taught at BEEEP capture their interest and imagination. Our goal at BCS is always to prepare our students for the future and to set them up to be successful. I am glad to see so many students and parents involved in this program,” said Delcamp.

Jodi Huber is a fourth grade teacher at Brocton Elementary School who has received her Level 1 Google Educator certification. With technology being integrated more and more into the classroom, there’s no harm in becoming an expert in the programs that children will be using with their assignments.

The Google Educator certification allows Huber to distinguish and promote herself as such, and provided her with obtaining a mastery of several Google Apps that she can integrate into her classroom instruction and turn key to other teachers. The process required her to become versed in several Google Apps and how to integrate them into her profession. Huber took a series of online trainings, and after the trainings she applied to take an online exam. The exam took about 2.5 hours, was partially multiple choice, but for the most part required Huber to actually apply the skills using the Google apps in a variety of ways.

“My classroom is now functioning out of Google Classroom and we are using a variety of Google Apps daily. I am lucky we are a 1 to 1 Chromebook school, as it gives me the ability to do a lot with technology and assign homework assignments through Google Apps. My fourth graders are given several assignments via Google Classroom to be conducted using Google Docs, Forms/Quizzes, and Slides. It is allowing me to go more paper-free while accumulating data on students performance quickly,” said Huber.

So far, Huber’s classroom has had digital discussions and surveys through Google Classroom; started projects in Google Sites, which allows students to quickly access resources and demonstrate learning in different ways; used Google Docs to create multimedia text sets of resources; used the EasyBib add on to help create bibliographies; typed their reports in Google Docs and then shared them with Huber and peers to edit; built a class Google Slideshow where each slide contains facts and images about their animal (from an animal-themed project); and used Google Maps to “pin” where their animal resides and then add some habitat details right within the shared world map.

“I have been using Google Apps for Education for several years now, and wanted to learn how empower my students through these tools and build a successfully integrate technology now that I teach in a classroom,” said Huber.