West Newton teachers win grant for science lab

COVINGTON -- West Newton Elementary School third graders soon will have a new science lab, thanks to their teachers.

The third-grade teacher team, which consists of Tracy Clay, Lakia Williams, Kellie Keaton, David Baker, Chansley Wren and Jessica Weaver, recently was awarded a $2,000 ING Unsung Heroes Grant to create the new B.L.A.S.T. Lab: "Bringing Life and Sciences Together."

"The B.L.A.S.T. lab was chosen because of the need to improve science CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests) scores," Keaton said. "This lab will allow the students to have hands-on activities relating to the science standards. Students can make connections between the real world experiences and the classroom, hence the name B.L.A.S.T."

The team was one 100 finalists in the nation to win the grant and only one of two in Georgia.

"We are excited to have such exceptional staff members at West Newton who are always thinking of creative ways to help our students be the best they can be," said Dr. Takila Curry, principal of West Newton Elementary School.

According to their grant application, the lab will be stocked with a variety of materials and literature that will enhance the students' science learning experience. It also will feature a computer station for research and the creation of a class newsletter.

Students will use an interactive workbook that they will note findings from their experiments and observations. The workbook also will be used to chronicle explanations of new learning and to make connections to prior knowledge, which can be used as a reference guide in the future.

In the lab, students will create a diorama of the five Georgia Habitats, examining the effects of weathering and erosion. They also will create their own fossils, observe the differences in various types of rocks and learn about temperature, magnetism and the effects of pollution.

"The purpose of the lab is to give designated time for the students to experiment with materials and make discoveries," Keaton said. "Students will be expected to track their new learning in interactive notebooks, make connections to other areas of the curriculum and share their findings with other students and the school community."

The lab also will offer opportunities for the students to participate in recycling projects.

West Newton also is in the running for one of the three top ING grants worth $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000.

"The grant was written for third grade use at this time. Should we be awarded further grants, funds will be used to share the lab across all grade levels," Keaton said.