Taking science ‘hands-on’
By Jim Ryan
The opportunity for children to expand their learning horizons has advanced by quantum leaps since the 1950s, when Tinker Toys were used to build sky scrapers and baking soda was the essential ingredient in most chemistry sets youngsters found under the tree on Christmas morning.
Because of computers of every shape and size, young minds today are accustomed to more challenging projects, and one local teacher is helping to meet that need.
For the past six years, Lloyd Stallings has been a third grade teacher at Liberty Lake Elementary School. However, when the final bell rings and the kids scamper to the playground or over to Pavillion Park for a quick game of football or soccer before dinner, Stallings goes home and turns his attention to "Science In Action," an enterprise he started a year ago after he and his wife visited a shop in Ocean Shores, Wash.
The Science In Action workshops are designed to teach or enhance children's science background through hands-on projects. The projects require attention to detail, following directions, using tools and allowing for learning about a variety of concepts. Stallings said these workshops have proven to be wonderful hands-on opportunities for the children.
His next workshop is Saturday at the Tierpoint Building, 23403 E. Mission Ave. in Liberty Lake.
"My wife and I like to visit the ocean, and one day we were visiting a store that had these ‘Science In Action' activity kits," Stallings said. "I looked at them and thought they might be a fun thing to do. So I bought a few and showed them to my students and to my kids, and then the next year when we went back I got the contact information."
Stallings digressed from his story, explaining he had been in private business for almost 20 years before he started teaching. He owned a chainsaw store, lawn and garden store and a feed store in Springdale, Wash. He had a stint in banking and finance and even tried his hand as an auctioneer before going back to school at age 35 and receiving his bachelors and masters from Gonzaga University.
"So I talked to the company, and they said they had a few outlets, but they didn't have anyone in the Spokane Valley selling these kits," Stallings said. "So I decided I was going to do a workshop model where I would buy lump sums of these kits and do the workshops here."
He is quick to explain that his Science In Action workshops are completely separate from his teaching job, and any preparation and the workshops themselves are held off-campus and typically on weekends.
"I set the workshops so it isn't like school, but there is still learning going on," he said. "There are directions, safety rules, tools and all these different things."
Stallings is there to answer any questions as the students begin the construction of their projects. He explained that some of the older students need little or no guidance, while others might need a little hands-on advice, and some need him to show them step-by-step how to put it together.
"The students will be constructing things by using screwdrivers, wires, batteries and different circuitry," he explained.
He said the younger students typically need help with parts of their project. That is where he steps in, or he encourages the parents to attend and lend a hand.
"Many kids I have in the workshops have never done anything like this before," he said. "That's why it is so exciting. I've had several students who have attended every class, and it's satisfying to watch that growth and confidence."
He explained that the workshops aren't just about science; the children get to dig in, use their hands and actually build something that will be functional when completed.
He said the projects are also a good education for the children in learning how to complete a process using multiple steps and having a little patience.
"They are little life skills we all have to learn," Stallings said.
When the children finally complete their projects and head out to the parking lot with their parents, Stallings said it is always rewarding for him to see each child's sense of accomplishment and growth.
"And the big grins when something works," he smiled. "And when it doesn't, and I help them, then there is that sense of relief."
Stallings said while he repeats some of his classes, there are a number of new kits available for future workshops.
There are still openings for Saturday's workshops. To register or learn more, call 951-8091 or email L1971J1972@aol.com.
The workshops, fishing and family activities
Favorite class in high school:
English and shop
Least favorite class in high school:
Didn't have one. "I liked high school."