Tim Foster, a science teacher at Anna Blakiston Day Elementary School (A.B. Day), remembers his childhood experiences with science; mixing things together, playing with bugs and simply being curious about the world around him. For Foster, those early hands-on experiments were what science was all about, and what he remembers most.
In an effort to incorporate concrete lessons in his curriculum, Foster has launched an online fundraiser through donorschoose.org to be able to purchase 30 cow eyeballs and two dissection kits for his seventh grade classes next year.
“I would love to be able to show my class what dissection is all about,” the post reads. “These materials would provide my students with their first experience in seeing not only a real eyeball, but give them the opportunity to see the parts and discuss how they work.”
The estimated cost of the supplies is less than $500. After posting his fundraiser on Nov. 5, Foster has already raised $100.
Until this year, the physical dissection lessons in the curriculum were largely skipped over. Instead, the students used a virtual dissection program. The downside of that program, Foster said, was that the students could just click through without fully understanding the material.
“In all reality, yes, it’s interesting. And yes, it’s a good followup or reinforcement. But, not doing the hands-on activity I think is more of a detriment to the kids than anything because they are not actually getting in and doing it,” Foster said.
He posited that districts’ lack of funding in urban areas could help explain why there are not as many minorities in the science field.
According to a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report, minority students that have an interest in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, are less likely to major in or obtain degrees in those areas. Specifically, black and Hispanic students are less likely to major in a STEM program, in comparison to whites and Asians. (A.B. Day’s total school population is 93 percent African-American.)
Without the proper supplies, students are ultimately being deprived of a well-rounded academic background. This bears out in some students’ lack of understanding of the subject. Even though they understood the components in their simplest form, they had difficulty understanding how all the components correlate.
During a recent dissection lab, Foster was able to fully explain those components, and the interrelation, to his students by taking them step-by-step through the process. They also had handy placemats which outlined the instructions in an easy-to-read block format.
“We learn how cells come together to form tissue and tissue comes together to form organs and organs come together to form organ systems,” Foster said. “They can almost see how the eye actually works just by taking it apart”
Foster said that his students were thrilled to do the lab and were not only ready to learn, but happy to learn. He is very optimistic.
The dissection lab fundraiser — for which he still needed $362 as of Wednesday — ends on April 3, 2012.