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Here Comes the Sun!

Last school year, with the help of a Hayward Education Foundation grant, sixth grade teacher Paul Garrison at Hayward’s Ruus Elementary put on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing. Costumed students created and changed scenes, knew their parts, spoke out strong, and even supplied musical accompaniment for a fabulous show created out of an ordinary group of 10 and 11 year olds.

This school year, with some of the same kids, and a lot of new ones, he’s tackling “The Taming of the Shrew.” Performances are scheduled the first week in June, and eager anticipation is rising.

Elementary teachers, however, must teach a wide variety of subjects. So yes, Mr. Garrison applied for another H.E.F. grant this year, but this time for science, not drama.

One day after school, three of his students—Madison Nguyen, Hannah Khan, and Brenda Martinez—sat me down and regaled me with everything they had learned from their unit on Solar Power.

First, this equipment was all purchased with the HEF grant: both black and white solar trays, plastic covers for these trays, tumblers to measure liquid, and thermometers to measure the results.

They all immediately knew what “solar” meant and how to use this new equipment. The tumbler was to measure the liquid poured into the tray. The plastic cover was added, and the covered tray put into the sun. After a precise amount of time, the thermometer measured the resulting water temperature. This resulting heat equaled energy.

In the spirit of scientific experiment though, once was not enough. To learn more, they continually varied the experiment. Different amounts of liquid were used. Different liquids also—fresh water, salt water, water with food coloring, milk. The trays were varied—both white and black were used to compare results. And of course, different time-spans in the sun were measured with different amounts of liquid, sometimes heated as the sun reflected off of tinfoil. Even elevation caused a difference, so a tray four inches higher on box resulted in more heat energy than one on a desk.

Any school lesson that is hands on—whether building sets, playing guitar, speaking Shakespeare, or learning to measure the heat of the sun—is worthwhile, the type of lesson that is never forgotten.

My student teachers knew the potential future benefits of solar power for our environment, and each of them wants a science-connected career in her future. Hannah wants to be an archaeologist, while both Madison and Brenda plan to be electrical engineers. Madison will work for Tesla (and has promised Mr. Garrison a new car. Wow!).

None of this would have been possible without a grant from the Hayward Education Foundation. Mr. Garrison’s students are lucky to have a teacher who takes advantage of HEF’s opportunities and provides them a creative and memorable learning environment.

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