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A closer look at Rowe school’s science program

RANCHO SANTA FE — Before Kelly Stine became a science teacher at R. Roger Rowe School, she worked at Birch Aquarium where students from all over the county came on field trips.
When students visited from Rowe, she said the aquarium educators routinely kicked up their curriculum at least one grade level and sometimes higher.
“We knew these kids knew their stuff,” she said.
Stine has been teaching science at Rowe now for eight years and is very passionate about the program.
“There is a lot of value placed on science here,” she said. “Our kids take science from kindergarten on. It is a big part of the school.”
On a recent day, Stine’s seventh grade Life Science class was examining owl pellets, regurgitated fur and bones, which are indigestible by owls.
“It’s a little gross, but is kind of cool to see how an animal digests its food,” said Sandra Sandria as she and her lab partner Melissa De Luca picked through the pellets with tweezers recovering teeth and bones.
Next door, teacher David Warner teaches physics and math. He also runs the Tech 21 Lab that helps students learn how science applies to everyday life.
The Tech 21 Lab was developed as an elective course for students interested in rocketry, robotics, car design, CAD and other technology-related science courses. Students have the ability to explore science through technology. This class is offered to students in grades five through eight.
“Just fantastic options and we have quality, quality teachers,” Stine said.
Lindy Delaney, superintendent of the school district, said that such emphasis is put on science because it is an integral part of life and a student’s educational experience.
“Science incorporates all of the other disciplines and allows students the opportunity to explore the world around them. We hope to provide many different experiences for our students — science being an important element of their education,” Delaney said.
Elena Colvin, who teaches science to fourth and fifth grades, said her classes are currently studying the three basic types of volcanoes — yes, there are three — shield, strato and cinder cone. Her class was building a few volcanoes and preparing them to erupt.
Colvin said science is important for children in everyday life as they develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills. It also helps them understand the world around them and indeed their own bodies.
The school partners with Scripps for an Ocean Week when students spend an entire week focusing on the ocean and getting lessons from professionals in the field. Coming up next on April 8 is Science Discovery Day, when every class will host professionals to tell them what is happening in their own fields.
“Each teacher looks for ways to enhance the curriculum with author visits, guest artists, guest scientists, and other subject-specific professionals,” Delaney said.
Tanya Baumgardner, sixth-grade science teacher, said she believes that Rowe is already one of the leaders of the STEM Initiative announced by President Barack Obama last fall. Its purpose is to get more students interested in science, technology, engineering and math, to prepare them for future jobs and competition on the world stage.
Baumgardner said she believes one of the reasons the science program at Rowe is so successful is that it strikes a balance between the literacy and the hands-on experiences.
“We have to prepare them for future careers,” she said.
Stine said because Rowe students have been immersed in science since the beginning of their schooling, many find it a natural progression when they leave.
“A lot of our students choose it as their life.”
She said science is ever changing with new discoveries on every level.
“This is one of the fields that is ongoing. There is nothing flatline about it,” she said.
Stine said this generation will change the world on every level through science with how they think, vote and conduct their adult lives