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Big Canyon brings big learning to Victoria students


Nov. 11, 2010 at 5:11 a.m.
Updated Nov. 13, 2010 at 5:13 a.m.

Elijah Fennell, an O'Connor Magnet School fifth-grader, helps explain weathering during a science presentation using a giant inflatable canyon.

It's big. It's bouncy. It's thousands of years of deposition and fossil formation stretched over a 15-foot blow-up canyon in the O'Connor Magnet School gym.

"It was pretty cool because it shows what all happened in the canyon in the past and how the rocks get their shapes and stuff," said Tyler Scott, a fifth-grader who watched a presentation about the canyon.

The presentation, done by the "inflatable ladies" - a teacher duo from Trinity Science Solutions - was a novel way of teaching kids about geology and science.

"Teachers do their best to teach this in class," said Terri Monk, a presenter. "But to see the visual of it makes it more believable, it makes it easier to learn."

Students huddled into groups and pretended to be grains of sand along the canyon's fabric seashore while Monk and a fellow teacher explained erosion.

At the end of the presentation, students funneled into a tunnel beneath the canyon that showed different fossil and rock layers.

The project was sponsored by a $1,500 grant from the Victoria Education Foundation. The amount was split between O'Connor and Shields Magnet School, which also hosted the exhibit for a day to help boost student test scores.

"We found our science knowledge for children was extremely low and part of the problem of that was the children have difficulty seeing change over long periods of time," said Pam Motl, curriculum facilitator at O'Connor.

More than 500 students toured the canyon.

Motl also said many of the students at the Title I school don't have the resources to travel to and experience a real canyon.

"The chances of a lot of our children traveling anywhere in the state to even see a canyon are very slim," she said. "We can do things with digital media and cybertours, but we really wanted something they could grasp and hold onto."

Students took notes in science journals and played along with the activities.

"My favorite part was going in the secret tunnel," said Alexis Williams, a fifth-grader. "The canyon has lots of layers inside and oils and stuff and lots of fossils," she said. Alexis said she'd never been to a canyon, but she would remember the school's vinyl version in the future.



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