Springfield Students Prefer Hands-on Learning to Books

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Learning and retaining information is easier for students when interactive, hands-on teaching methods are used as opposed to learning from a textbook.

That was one of the main takeaways during a student panel discussion at Springfield Local Intermediate School Wednesday. As fifth grader Ally Guerriero points out, “textbooks are old school.”

It was the third such discussion panel organized by The Business Journal as part of Brain Gain: Building a Culture of Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development to hear what youths have to say about our communities and how the region can reverse the problem of brain drain in the future. The panel was made up of students from fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade who were chosen by three teachers.

The students were eager to share ideas, speaking without hesitation about careers, personal tragedies that have inspired them and efforts they are taking to better their community and the environment.

Most of the seventh and eighth students are part of the school’s Career Connections program, which encompasses investigating and researching career paths, putting plans in place and developing lifestyle skills that teach financial accountability. They offered a realistic snapshot of their present experiences, future plans and steps they’re taking to succeed.

Aspiring career paths ranged from farming to brain surgery, and hobbies also covered the spectrum from sports to practicing surgical sutures. But they all found common ground that classes and projects rooted in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) helped them to learn.

“You’re able to learn while you’re doing it rather reading books,” said sixth grader Tyler Lesnak.

Mariana Tuscano agreed, saying visualization is an easier and more effective way to learn.

“In math class we’ve been learning about negative numbers and positive numbers and we used these Styrofoam chips with different colors on both sides; red and white chips. Red means negative and white means positive and I like using the chips because it helps me answer the problem,” Tuscano said. “I like counting it out in my head and counting it on the table.”

Owen Wonner, eighth grade

Getting hands on comes naturally to Owen Wonner, who helps his grandfather raise beef cattle on his family’s 300-acre farm. He’s interested in pursuing welding and diesel mechanic training at a trade school so he can fix machinery on the farm, which he eventually plans to take over, he said.

For his science fair project in seventh grade, Blake Poole put his hunting dog’s nose to the test for a STEM-related experiment. The eighth-grader wanted to determine what scent would spur the dog’s quickest response time.

“I put different animal scents on the dogs training drag for him to sniff it out,” Poole said. “I tracked the different animal scents and then I timed it. His response to raccoons was the fastest.”

Poole is a percussionist and wants to enter the military after high school with hopes of playing in the Marine Corps band. He said his mother is his best friend and drives his inspiration for music.

“My mom loved music and she had a musical passion as a senior. As time went on, she got Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis] and her system and her voice gradually deteriorated so her career in music got completely ended. She was forced to stay home and most of her dreams got stopped short,” he said. “So, I want to pursue music just like she did and take as much from her as I possibly could and make something of myself with it.”

Rachel Malatok wants to be a neurologist, she said, because of diseases like Alzheimer’s and her empathy for the disease’s impact on people who one day won’t be able to remember their own children.

“I know it will take a lot of years of college,” she said. “But hopefully you’ll be able to fix things that weren’t able to be fixed in the past. Right now, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s.”

While most kids are involved in dance or 4-H during their free time, Malatok said she enjoys practicing her suturing skills with a kit she ordered online.

Hannah Stouffer, seventh grade.

Thomas Sheely is a seventh grader who says he wants to go college and then play football in the NFL. His drive and inspiration come from his father, who died in 2014.

“He used to come to all of my football games. My mom takes me to a personal trainer and is pushing me to play because she knows my dad would have wanted that,” Sheely said. “I just want to go to the draft and make him proud.”

Hannah Stouffer said she’s focused on more recycling and less trash, and hopes that when she is older she can be waste free. Fifth-grader Brianne Carnahan also has concerns about pollution created by gas cars.

“We basically use cars to go anywhere. Even if it’s just a mile away, they’ll use a car and it might take longer by you could use a bike or something. Even battery powered cars would be good,” Carnahan said.

The school recycles and one of the science teachers started a recycling club, she said. Every Friday, students in the club go to classrooms and gather items in recycling bins provided by Mahoning County’s Green Team.

While the students all seemed to agree that hands-on learning, such as through STEM projects, can be more engaging, none of them said they struggled with learning from books or from lecture.

“I think it’s a little more exciting to work with your hands because you get to do more projects,” Guerriero said.

Pictured above: Panel participants with teacher, Tara Mohn, including (front row from left) Brianne Carnahan, Amaya Abeid, Hannah Stouffer, Mariana Tuscano, Rachel Malatok, Ally Guerriero, (back row from left) Tyler Lesnak, Caleb Arms Adair, Thomas Sheely, Owen Wonner and Blake Poole.

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Editor’s Note: Student panel discussions are intended to hear honest feedback from students on their interests, aspirations and concerns. Statements made by students are their opinions and are not subjected to fact-checking or the solicitation of responses from school district leadership.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.