Applying math outside of the classroom
A group of Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School students stepped outside of the classroom on Wednesday to get a taste of how mathematics is applied in the real world.
For example, Brian Roberts, who is a wind turbine instructor at Mitchell Technical Institute, asked a group of students to solve an equation that converted wind speed from miles per hour to meters per second. In turn, the kids put their heads together and worked to solve the equation.
The group of students was one of four that took part in the event at MTI's campus, where third, fourth and fifth graders learned about how math is applied in several technical programs offered at MTI. The students split into four groups and had a choice to take part in agriculture, wind turbine, culinary or construction program sessions. Students had to pick their top three program sessions to participate in during the event.
"It gives kids a perspective of what we actually do as wind turbine technicians, and it's great to show them how math incorporates into the wind turbine field," Roberts said after showing the kids how to strap on a wind turbine harness. "Whatever industry they go into, this helps them see how often math is used everyday."
Exposing her students to show how specific math skills are used in various job sectors was always part of Molly Becker's vision for orchestrating the MTI exploratory day. Becker, a fifth-grade teacher at GBR, was the driving force behind organizing the inaugural event and applied for a grant to make it all come together.
"It's common to hear kids ask, 'When are we ever going to use this type of math?' and I wanted this to help show them that math is very important and it's used in so many ways in the working world," Becker said.
Leading up to Wednesday's educational field trip, Becker said the grant also helped her and several other GBR teachers implement a new math program through partnering with MTI in customizing lesson plans to help build the basic math skills needed for some of the programs offered at MTI. The program extended throughout the full school year and included three GBR math teachers.
"It's a customized math program and kids can work at their own level. We've been doing lesson plans that connect to some of the programs offered at MTI," Becker said. "It's really helped expose them to what kind of opportunities are available after high school."
Assisting Roberts during the wind turbine session was Nathan Lahue, a recent graduate of the program at MTI. He said it's never too early to begin exposing kids to career opportunities.
"This generation of kids are going to have some great opportunities in technical and trades jobs, and this helps them understand what all goes into these unique jobs," Lahue said. "Showing these kids the type of skills that go into these trades at such a young age will help them know the option is there."
After the students learned the basics of how wind is measured during the wind turbine session, Roberts and Lahue led them outside to provide an example of how large a wind turbine blade is. Measuring 150 feet, Roberts had the group of students stand next to each other beside the blade to give them a better visual representation of the size of a wind turbine blade.
The group then took the skills they learned in the early half of the session and collaborated to construct a two-foot mini model turbine. In working together to build a mini turbine, Roberts said it taught students the value of teamwork.
Jessica Gerlach, a fifth-grade student at GBR, said she enjoyed the hands-on learning experience.
"It was fun to use the tools to make the wind turbine," Gerlach said. "It was interesting to see how the battery was set up as well, and I was able to learn how wind turbine people use math."