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New Teacher Brings Hands-on Science Lab to All Grades at Paragon

When Teacher-in-Residence, Deepika Bharatiya Tak, was hired this past summer at Paragon Charter Academy, it quickly became evident to Principal Ben Kriesch that Tak had some unique skills that could be directed to work at Paragon. Tak had years of experience teaching middle school and high school science in India.
 
It was decided that Tak would teach and direct a weekly hands-on science laboratory at Paragon for all grade levels from Young 5s to eighth grade.
 
These seventh-grade students are learning about the structure of matter.

“Mrs. Tak has been an incredible addition to our staff at Paragon,” Kriesch said. “Her prior experience of teaching science has provided her the background necessary to truly launch our new hands-on science lab. We created this lab to address standards that are commonly and historically low in our school in both areas of math and science. In addition to addressing the math and science standards, it has the added benefit of student discourse and collaboration.”
 
Tak’s vision behind setting up the lab is to:
  • Develop interest in science by having fun while learning, performing experiments/activities, and making static as well as working models.
  • Acquire the scientific attitude and approach – curiosity, honesty, objectivity, perseverance, conscientious, openness, being critical, and being responsible.
  • Adopt and practice scientific process – questioning, following directions, making predictions, data collection, analyzation, and presentation, drawing conclusions, and designing their own solution to the problems. This involves critical thinking, validating the data, and applying scientific knowledge, etc.
  • Practice different skills and attributes – observing, using the laboratory equipment, classifying, inferring, predicting, measuring, communicating, using space/time relations, formulating hypothesis, experimenting, recognizing variables, interpreting data, and formulating models.
 
“Besides the above vision, we will be integrating the laboratory activities with other subjects like language, mathematics, social studies, art, physical education, health and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), whenever it fits and suits the class level and the schedule,” Tak said.

Kindergarteners are watching a rainbow rain experiment.

“The activities are designed parallel to the science curriculum to enhance the understanding of the concepts taught in the classes,” Tak said. “From Young 5s to second grade, laboratory activities are more fun-based learning activities focusing on observation, questioning, and data collection; while from third grade onwards activities will also include other aspects of scientific methods like measurements, calculations, analysis, inferencing and presenting the data. Along with the scientific approach, the difficulty level will increase per semester as well as the grade level.”
 
Tak began having all students learn basic laboratory expectations and safety rules in the first weeks. In Young 5s through second grade, their labs are completed in one session, as they get older the labs may take two to three class periods to complete. In seventh and eighth grade, Tak teaches a general education and an honors lab.

This second-grade class is learning about static electricity and if it can make the butterfly wings flap.

With her first 10 weeks of her hands-on science labs planned out for all grade levels, Tak has created a large variety of experiments. It ranges with the younger classes learning about plant processes, magnetic force, life cycles, and energy transfer, to older students learning about space systems, physical and chemical properties, and body systems and sensory receptors.
 
“I'm so thankful to Mr. Kriesch for believing in me and my abilities to take students from Young 5s to eighth grade in leading them through hand-on science labs,” Tak said. “Everybody here is very helpful. I feel like they are family whatever I need, they are there for me. It’s amazing and I’m learning so much. It gives me a positive vibe.”

About Paragon Charter Academy
Paragon Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Jackson, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 98 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.