Let me take you on a quick tour of 2015 School on Wheels Education Champion Dustin Ecker’s 4th grade classroom at Grassy Creek Elementary School in Warren Township. The tables are arranged for group work. The tops are made for collaboratively working out problems with dry-erase markers and and the students eagerly work out problems directly on them. There are different places to sit throughout the room, like the overstuffed chair that seats multiple kids in one corner and the bouncy bungee chairs scattered throughout. Bright teal accents pop up on some shelves and there’s a high swivel chair that appears to be hand-painted. Clear and engaging writing, reading and math boards decorate the walls. Huge Post-It notes with definitions for science terms like circuit, conductor, insulator and engineer have a prominent place at the front of the classroom. That’s the focus of the morning.
I’m there with professional story tellers at Deliberate Media to get footage of Grassy Creek’s Science Club that starts at 7:30 am. Nearly 30 4th grade students join us on Friday morning, each of them choosing to get to school nearly an hour early to learn! And from the moment they step into the classroom they are fully engaged. Mr. Ecker greets each student personally, and they settle in with their binders and start reading quietly. It’s an early morning and I’m sleepy so I assume everyone else is as well. So when Dustin jumps on the desk and all the kids stand up, I’m not prepared for the energy that takes over the room.
Each of the science terms on the board have actions associated with them. The whole class moves their arms in a fluid motion when talking about conductors. They jump in the air and land with an arm outstretched before them like super heroes when they talk about insulators. Movement is encouraged – even when they are working on reading comprehension about the science story they just read quietly. This class stands to answer all Mr. Ecker’s questions about the reading they just completed, eagerly calling out responses when prompted as a group, and bouncing on the balls of their feet with hands raised when Mr. Ecker searches for individual answers.
The kids love it. I love it. The Deliberate Media crew and I continue to look at one another in amazement every time something new happens. This controlled energy is completely inspiring and each of the kids in that classroom is 100% engaged. In fact, it’s hard to pull the students away from their group work for a quick interview. Everyone needs just a minute more to finish up the problem they are working on with their friends.
When I get them in front of the camera they light up when talking about Science Club. They like it, they say, because it helps make sense of the world around them, it lets them get extra points to get on the leader board in the classroom, it’s fun to work with their friends and they really like Mr. Ecker. “He’s fun and funny.” One kid even said it feels like family. This early morning Science Club really has it all.
And this club was made possible through the award money that came with Dustin Ecker’s 2015 Education Champion Award honor. He was nominated by the principal at Grassy Creek and was selected by our committee for his creative approach to teaching. Nominations for the 2016 Education Champion Award open November 11, 2015 and we can’t wait to find the next educator who motivates us as much as Mr. Ecker. A good educator inspires minds and transforms lives, and that’s exactly what we captured during Science Club in room 25 at Grassy Creek Elementary last week. Thanks, Mr. Ecker and all you other champions of education out there!
Want to be the first to learn about the 2016 Education Champion award? Attend our Education Panel on November 11th! RSVP today!