The Grenada Elementary School 4-5 Discovery Lab continues to spark the curiosity of our students through innovative, hands-on experiences.
The Discovery Lab is an educational resource that encourages the development of critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration skills in both the 4th grade and 5th grade students. As educators, we guide our kids to apply the knowledge they have learned to solve real-world problems, and hands-on learning is the best vehicle for teaching problem solving, offering real-world context, and making the connections that enhance critical thinking to improve long-term success.
Traditionally, students create projects and perform demonstrations using step-by-step guides as well as instructions from teachers. However, over the past few years, we began incorporating Project Lead the Way (PLTW) modules into our curriculum and activities to increase the complexity and challenge of the demonstrations and experiments that students conduct, as well as to bring additional focus to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Rather than following a pattern or set of instructions, students are given a problem or challenge to investigate, and they must create a solution using the supplied materials with little or no assistance from the instructor or teacher. Instead, the instructor provides clues, redirection, and positive reinforcement to guide the students throughout the process.
Discovery Lab projects may involve designing and constructing a boat out of popsicle sticks that has to float and carry weight, or giving students a mixture of substances, which they must separate using the correct tools. Instead of asking about the process of photosynthesis, students explore why trees need light and why leaves are on the ground at a certain time of the year.
The application of science standards to projects helps students develop collaborative strategies for solving problems. Since the Discovery Lab projects provide an opportunity to solve real-world problems on a smaller scale, students are introduced to careers involving engineering, space exploration, horticulture, and many others. Throughout the year, members of the community who are employed in these careers are invited to speak to our students and connect the content with a career.
In addition to hands-on activities, students use tablets to design 3D models that can be printed on our two 3D printers. Students also use applications on tablets and virtual reality goggles to explore plants, the solar system, states of matter, and programming one of our six Cue robots.
Grenada Elementary School and the Discovery Lab incorporate PLTW in its plan to create and sustain thriving communities by preparing students with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to succeed in any career path they choose. The biggest winners are the students that gain transportable knowledge and skills in real-world learning experiences.
PLTW School of Distinction
Grenada Elementary 4-5 is a Project Lead the Way School of Distinction.
The citation recognizes GES 4-5 as a school that has shown a remarkable commitment to increasing student access, engagement, and achievement through this innovative curriculum.
Discovery Lab lessons are designed to prompt critical thinking and problem-solving skills, while teaching science-class curriculum.
All students at the Green Top have access to this innovative style of learning. The lessons are scalable to all learning levels, including the special ed classes. This access is one thing that separates the Green Top’s PLTW program from others.
Teachers and administrators from other school districts in Mississippi and neighboring states, as well as representatives from PLTW, have visited the Green Top to observe how well the program is working. We frequently hear visitors comment on how bright the students are and how smoothly the program is run in Grenada.
GES 4-5 students’ science scores, based on assessment software designed to reflect state-level achievement, has shown marked progress since the implementation of PLTW curriculum.
Students and teachers love to drop by the Discovery Lab to check up on our wildlife. We have a 227-gallon reef aquarium that houses a variety of marine life including a yellow tang named Tina, a foxface lo named Flo, a blue tang named Carol, clownfish, and several others. In addition, we have several different types of hard and soft coral that contribute to this saltwater ecosystem.
We also have Louie, a hedgehog who is full of attitude and loves to sleep all day. By interacting with Louie, students learn about nocturnal behavior and defense mechanisms.