I hung out with some kids at West Side Elementary School, Talented and Gifted (TAG) Academy, about their long term projects and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program. Students at each grade level work on a year-long project that is based on an identified problem that the school/community is facing. Through the West Side TAG program, students are encouraged to use their talents and gifts (TAG) to solve those problems.
The 5th graders and 2nd graders interviewed spoke about their experience with their projects last year in 4th and 1st grade. 4th graders collect and dump food scraps during K-5 lunch and maintain the compost bins, while the first graders use the compost in their pollinator gardens.
Composting at West Side keeps more than 3,000 pounds food waste out of our landfill and helps improve the pollinator numbers in our area. We discussed the usefulness of compost, the creation of compost, and the way it is monitored---temperature, wetness and you guessed it, smell. The smell they used to describe the bottom of the compost bin was pretty interesting.
Mike Rowe would be impressed! One thing was clear, the students love their teachers and their projects even though they were full of creepy, crawly, dirty, smelly, rotten stuff.
I also spoke with their teachers, Mrs. Throop, Ms. Greene and Mrs. Westlake, about their approach to learning. Gone are the days that teachers controlled the classroom. Teachers today expect collaboration, embrace “mistakes, and push the boundaries of the traditional classroom where they are no longer the sage on the stage. West Side classrooms are noisy, messy places where learning is based on solving real problems in our community.
Seriously, it was a pleasure meeting the 5th and 2nd graders, and their teachers do a wonderful job.