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April Lane students take a closer look
Science laboratory opens new vistas at Yuba City school
Microscopes help humans see things they never knew were there.
And a dedicated science lab at April Lane Elementary in Yuba City wasn't there — until this school year.
Students in Leslie Allison's fifth-grade class poured into the building Tuesday afternoon, ready for their third session working with microscopes.
While an overview of the Earth, life and physical sciences is a key role in the curriculum, Tuesday's exploration of plant cells wouldn't have been as eye-opening without the tools secured through a grassroots campaign.
Diane Bloomfield, involved in the Parents Students Teachers Club at April Lane for 14 years, said it all started with a question posed to last year's fifth-grade students, which included her son, Jaden.
The question was: "What would you like to see happen?"
She soon discovered that the youths understood the importance of science as they prepared for middle school, let alone their interest in the world around them, similar to Jaden's.
"He loves dirt, he loves snakes," she said with a laugh.
The students signed a petition requesting about $4,000 for lab equipment. It was approved, and Bloomfield helped gather about $800 in beakers, rocks and other materials once it was realized that a permanent lab space would be available.
The room, with the words "Think like a scientist" prominently posted overhead, features 18 microscopes that six classes use on a rotating basis.
They were put to good use on Tuesday.
"It's my favorite subject aside from math," said fifth-grader Malachai Parker, pausing from engaging lab partner Gissel Rodriguez with questions and observations while peering through the lens.
Students take turns looking at their peers' findings, like Emma Hughes' "amazing," but somewhat "creepy and hairy" insect find. Fellow-fifth grader Starleen Parker hypothesized it might be a caterpillar.
It's not just an exercise in exploration, however, as students draw diagrams, develop conclusions and cross-check those with their hypotheses. Without the scientific process, Allison explained to her students, society wouldn't make inventions or create cures.
Allison, who previously taught seventh and eighth grades, said she knows what science skills her students will need in middle school and beyond.
"That foundation needs to start at an elementary level," Allison said.
Principal Angela Huerta, on hand to watch Tuesday's lab, was excited and pleased with the hands-on approach.
"Students learn how to think critically," she said, highlighting the difference between engaging students and having them memorize and regurgitate.
Soon, a more powerful microscope will be hooked up to a SMART Board, so the classes using the space can observe their findings on a large screen.
The evolution of the lab didn't happen overnight, but Bloomfield points out that it comes down to parent involvement and a little elbow grease.
"If you can't physically volunteer, donate," she said.