Students explore variety of fields
By Denise Dick
As for how his engineering class compares with regular classes at the Discovery Program at Kirkmere, eighth-grader Larry Phillips says there’s no comparison.
“It’s the best class to me because we get to build things, and that’s something I’ve never gotten to do before,” said Larry, 13.
Earlier this week, he and classmate Jean Melendez, 14, were finishing their pull toy in Amanda Brundage’s engineering class. Jean agrees with his partner’s assessment.
“It’s fun,” he said. “You get to create new things.”
Nearby, Joshua Fernandez, 13, and Hector Quintero, 14, worked on their version of the pull toy, selecting which screws, bolts, wheels and metal pieces worked best for their design.
Brundage said the students are graded on teamwork, completion of the project and inclusion of both a complex and a simple gear in the toy.
Rather than spending her time, lecturing at the front of the room, Brundage, instructs students individually, each of whom may be at a different level.
“It’s fun to teach,” she said.
The Discovery Program, a new offering in the city schools this year, is open to third- through eighth-graders, exposing them to fields and career paths as well as the core subjects. Besides engineering, the other fields are Spanish, creative
communications, art, dance, investigative science, band and choir.
Middle-school students have two Discovery classes per quarter between core subject areas. Younger students rotate every four weeks.
Principal Lisa Gonzalez-Miller said that two months into the school year, students seem to be engaged in the programs.
“They love it,” she said.
Middle-school teachers double up on core and discovery subjects. All teachers had to interview and be selected to teach at the school.
Students in Zita Smith’s art class had just completed and fired their clay Udu drums and were spending time before their next project painting holiday artwork and drawing pictures.
“I love art,” said eighth-grader Jone’ Smith, 14.
Jaylen Holcomb, 13, also an eighth-grader, agreed.
“I like art,” he said, adding that he draws at home.
Faces are his preferred subject.
It was the first day for fifth-graders in Nora McDevitt’s investigative science class, and she introduced them to an enviroscape, an environmental education model, teaching them about the effects of pollutants on the environment.
“When you have something like this at home and you don’t know the why, it’s a toy,” McDevitt said of the model. “When you find out the why, it’s science.”