Incorporating an array of academic subjects into what students are learning in their VW eLab is not always a simple task, but Ooltewah Middle School is ensuring that the correlation between the two are aligned. Megan Oliver, VW eLab specialist, manages the role of merging various academic subjects so that they relate to projects in her classroom. Math and science have already played an integral role in the VW eLab learning experience. Oliver has kept students engaged each semester, ensuring each grade level has a variety of tasks at their disposal.
This year, eighth grade students are involved in a community project to help revitalize their school’s outdoor space. The students first had to research measurements for the gardens, benches, and other surroundings outside. From there, they had to scale down their specs in order to create their model in the VW eLab. “We related this project to 8th grade math,” said Oliver, “focusing on scaling, ratios, measuring, and architecture.” The ultimate goal for this project is to create an outdoor classroom area. “We are getting feedback from the Collegedale community with hopes of pitching the concept to central office this year,” said Oliver.
Below: Models of eighth grade community project
Eighth grade students are not the only ones who have the chance to tie outside learning experiences to the VW eLab. Last semester, seventh grader Hunter Eldridge helped with the school’s campus beautification. He and his class partner worked on the pond in the back of the school, with goals to reinvigorate that area. They also had the ability to use their VW eLab equipment with this project. “We used the shop vac we had from the VW eLab to drain the pond during the school day,” said Eldridge. “We scraped the bottom and were able to learn more about what kind of critters were there. Our goal is to create an enclosed system.” The VW eLab environment has helped increase Eldridge’s interests in aquaponics and a career in engineering, and he hopes to continue his project in the spring.
Adding to the science theme, seventh graders have the opportunity this quarter to partake in a partnership with the Chattanooga Zoo. Oliver says this partnership helps tie into their standards about adaptations. “The students are going to create interactive signage about specific organisms, focusing on the Komoto Dragon and the Anteater exhibits,” said Oliver. She says they hope to be featured in both exhibits during fourth quarter.
For sixth grade students, the VW eLab has provided a positive learning experience associated with science, too. Sixth grader Samuel Byron was able to relate what he was learning about weather patterns and ocean currents to his VW eLab globe project. He 3D printed the globe with his group and had to incorporate weather standards he was learning in science class. Byron admits the learning environment in the VW eLab played a major role in helping with his work ethic and drive. “The VW eLab helped me focus, which was something I struggled with in the past, and it motivated me to do better,” said Byron. “Being in the VW eLab also made me really humble and helped make me more independent.” The technologies also helped broaden his perspective of opportunities in the real world and the different career paths he can choose from after graduation.
Teaching in the VW eLab has changed Oliver’s perspective, as well as her teaching methods, compared to her previous role as a science teacher. “I have enjoyed stepping outside of my comfort zone,” said Oliver. She emphasizes autonomy in the classroom and for students to be the ones who make the choices of what they want to learn and create. “Once you allow the creative process to happen, it is mind-blowing to see what these kids come up with,” stated Oliver, “and it’s refreshing for students to have leadership + ownership over what they are learning.”
Oliver would like to include more teachers in the VW eLab in hopes for further collaboration across different academic areas. “I am planning with sixth grade English teachers this quarter, hoping to get some of their classes into the VW eLab during that time,” said Oliver. She would like the sixth graders to have the ability to create instructional interactive pieces that she can display around the VW eLab. “The goal is to have certain protocol, safety, logistics, etc. so when a new student walks into the VW eLab, these pieces explain processes to them visually,” said Oliver. This concept will help support Oliver’s goal of continuing to relate what is learned in the VW eLab to an array of academic subjects.
Keep up the great work, Ooltewah Middle! We look forward to seeing how your school’s outdoor space progresses, as well as your innovative ideas presented at the Chattanooga Zoo this year!
*More OMS student spotlights:
Seventh grader Christopher Marquez, who is currently enrolled in the VW eLab this semester, revealed his thoughts on the benefits of the VW eLab, sharing, “If you want to create your own business, the VW eLab could help set you up for that in the future.”
Left, Marquez is pictured with the keychain he created in the VW eLab, which includes the initials of his school and the initials of his name.
Working in teams allowed students to learn more about a collaborative environment. “The VW eLab helped with our group’s problem-solving skills,” said sixth grader Graci Carrico. “It also taught us how to fix projects, have better communication, and to have fun while doing it.”
Above, Carrico is pictured with her VW eLab weather project that she worked on with her group concerning the water cycle. She related this concept to what she was learning about weather patterns in science class.