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Girl, 11, to Waynesboro board: Where's my science book?

January 16, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - An 11-year-old girl stood before the Waynesboro Area School Board on Tuesday and asked why she doesn't have a science textbook.

"I've never seen a health book so far" either, Sarah Prince said.

Silence followed Sarah's remarks as the fifth-grader stood on her toes at the wooden podium and tugged at the hem of her navy blue T-shirt.

Board President Stanley Barkdoll thanked the child for her comments and said they would be taken under advisement. The board continued with its regular meeting agenda for a few minutes before member Leland Lemley said he wanted the textbook issues to be addressed.

"For what reason do they not have them?" Lemley asked.

"Basically in this district since even before I was here, there were no quote-unquote science books in the elementaries. ... There has not been ... a (science) textbook per se in the elementary in this school system for probably 10 or 15 years, if not longer than that, because it's been all hands-on based," said Assistant Superintendent Gloria Walker.

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The textbooks often have outdated content even before they're printed, she said, and a grant has been providing "modules" with hands-on projects for one of the four elementary schools. Principles from those modules could be expanded to other schools in the future, Walker said.

"I'm having a difficulty understanding how an elementary textbook would be outdated before it got to the classroom," Lemley said. He asked rhetorically if the chemical formula for water is still H20.

"What tools are we going to have to give kids, for lack of a better term, 'book knowledge' that's going to be required of them to meet the state standards?" asked board member Chris Devers.

Sarah and her classmates will soon take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, which now test science knowledge but do not include those results in the "adequate yearly progress" determinations. Adequate yearly progress (AYP) is a state component of the No Child Left Behind initiative.

"The whole premise of science, whether it's in the elementary or in the high school, is an inquiry-based model rather than reading something out of a book," Walker said.

Sarah, a straight-A student at Summitview Elementary School, said she feels a textbook would help her complete homework, prepare for tests and retain information from previously covered topics.

The reference material for homework is something that was memorized in class, Sarah told the board. She said the classes in her grade level have been sharing 20 water-damaged ecosystems textbooks recently, although Walker questioned why any textbook would be used in class.

"They give us a study guide (to take home) and that's pretty much it," Sarah said. "When they show pictures in the packets, (the photocopy) is hard to understand."

Devers said he has experienced similar frustrations with his fifth-grade daughter's handouts.

"You don't have the ability to reinforce it at home. ... If they have an issue, it would be much easier for me as a parent or with them to go back to a textbook," Devers said.

Devers said that "we're only giving them the classroom element of it and giving them only enough information to fill out the packets to be quite honest with you." Quizzes follow in the next day or two, he said.

Sarah's father, William Prince, said he appreciated the comments made by Devers and Lemley.

The board asked that the director of elementary education provide it with a presentation about the science curriculum and tools.

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