Golden Apple: Hands-on teaching at Richland County Middle School

This Golden Apple presentation took us back to Richland County Middle School in Olney, Illinois.

Posted: May 2, 2019 8:20 AM

RICHLAND COUNTY, Ill. (WTHI) - It is very rare for two teachers from the same school to win a Golden Apple award the same year.

This year, it happened twice...quadruple the good luck!

This Golden Apple presentation took us back to Richland County Middle School in Olney, Illinois.

A science teacher who believes hands-on learning is the most effective way to reach students.

7th-grade science teacher Kristie Shoemaker works hard to get kids thinking, building, solving.

"Learning to build something or figure something out really develops that part of the brain that helps you problem solve, which is a skill you will use in your everyday life," Kristie said.

When we stopped in, the students were studying DNA using strawberries.

Strawberries contain eight copies of each chromosome, a perfect specimen to isolate DNA.

One of the many projects Mrs. Shoemaker uses to reinforce STEM, science technology, engineering, and math.

To the kids, it is more fun learning the concepts by being a part of them.

"You get to talk to your friends and use hands-on stuff, just my type of stuff that I like to do," Gavin Charleston, a 7th grader at the school told us.

Mrs. Shoemaker teaches her kids about disabilities and how different joints work.

They used their engineering knowledge to build their own prosthetic hand to lift a cup and do other small tasks.

They also had the chance to learn about land formations in Illinois, caves and plant life...by seeing them first hand.

Perhaps the most beneficial lessons she teaches are life lessons.

Mrs. Shoemaker holds a class in the mornings on important decision making, relationships, and addictions.

"This is a crucial time to give guidance in some of the decisions they're going to be making through middle school and through high school and as a young adult," Mrs. Shoemaker said.

She jokes that her biggest problem is keeping her students from eating their science projects.

"When students watch you do something, they're looking. When they listen to you, they hear...but when they actually do...that's when true understanding and true learning occurs," Mrs. Shoemaker told us.

Her motto is 'if you do it hands-on...you learn it.'

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