By TONIA HILL
Teachers at Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., were among teachers from public and private high schools across the state that participated in a Golden Apple STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Institute at the University of Chicago’s Biological Sciences Learning Center, 924 E. 57th St., on Wednesday, July 19.
Chandra Garcia -Kitch, Cynthia Annorh, Abby Markert and Marisa Rae Pfeiffer teachers at Ray were present for the training on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, some teachers got their first crack at interacting with crickets. Teachers in the program explored and observed crickets to find out who runs faster, male or female crickets.
Before answering the question, the instructor, had teachers point out different traits for crickets to determine whether or not it was a male or female.
Teachers discovered that the color of the cricket, size, and shape, as well as its antennas, were characteristics that helped them in figuring out if the crickets they held in test tubes were boys or girls.
“Looking at it [female cricket] just from a distance it just looks a protuberance when you look at it closely you can see that it’s hollow,” Garcia-Kitch said. “When I compared it to my partner’s male cricket you can see how the protuberance on the male cricket would fit in the protuberance on the female cricket.”
The teachers put what they learned from their observations to the test to see which of the two could run the fastest.
The crickets were distributed one per pair of teachers. A long tube was used in the race where male and female crickets were separated in multiple tubes. The race, which was high-energy proved, Garcia-Kitch’s observation that male crickets are faster because female crickets are larger.
Garcia-Kitch, currently teaches third grade she is considering adding a similar activity to lessons for her class using a different insect.
“We might also do it with praying mantises as a part of our garden project and then compare different praying mantises,” Garcia-Kitch said. “To see which one eats more or hops further or any number of ways that the kids want to take a look at it.”
The STEM Institute’s programs are centered on the Next Generation Science Standards and incorporating Common Core Standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and math by assisting teachers in finding ways to make the subjects like science, technology, engineering, and math more engaging for their students.
Participating teachers earn up 100 hours of professional development over the course of two years at STEM Institute.
“Anytime you go to PD [professional development] you always learn something new even if it’s something you’ve been doing for awhile, so there have been new ideas.”
Garcia-Kitch said the training is a way to reimagine lessons and activities to get students engaged.
One activity over the course of training that stuck with Garcia-Kitch is one where teachers cut open glow sticks and painted by using the colors from the glow sticks.
“We talked about how you can mix colors in different ways and [how] colors look in light and in the dark,” Garcia-Kitch said. “As a way to talk about preconceived notions and how your belief system sometimes changes depending on what you believe about something. I think it would great for a third grader to do because what we think and know about color are two different things.”