In one classroom, students were learning about solids, liquids and gases by actually mixing ingredients to create solids and liquids.
And in yet another room at Elliott Elementary School, 225 S. 25th St., students were learning about careers in science.
And that’s the point of this summer school program hosted by the YMCA.
“Specifically, we see that kids are getting really excited about science and seeing science as a career,” said Kristi Chambers of the YMCA.
The morning portion of this summer program involves similar approaches of hands-on learning, though with an extra emphasis on reading.
About two-thirds of these 90 students come recommended by a teacher. These students could benefit most from a month of learning key concepts in reading, math and science.
Three people – who teach at Elliott Elementary School during the year – team up with eight YMCA staff members, mostly college students.
This instructional approach is more instruction based than people might realize, Chambers said.
“I think when people hear project- or problem-based learning they have a picture in their head, and it’s probably not as intensive as what we are doing,” she said.
Project- or problem-based learning involves students using multiple steps or thoughts to solve real-world problems. It allows students to explore possible solutions on their own, sometimes through trial and error, and lets them learn about how things work.
The staff members receive specific training in the method, allowing them to share extra opportunities for students. Each project has a driving question, designed to ensure students understand the key take-aways for the lesson.
There are also social components to this program, Chamber said. Swimming lessons for the students provide a chance for these students to learn something new. If students attend school three out of four days each week, they get to go on the Friday field trip in Lincoln. At the end of the month-long program, the entire group can go to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.
For students to reinforce their learning to other staff at Elliott, the young learners give presentations on what they have learned, and how they want to improve their community.
A waiting list of students who want to attend remains lenghty. But current funds only allow for so many students, which is why attendance is stressed for those already in the program.