Treasure Village Montessori Charter School students may be a little brainier than usual this spring. The charter school is beginning a six week afterschool science enrichment program on Feb. 6 with Plantation Key School science teacher and amateur astronomer Charles Fulco.
Fulco taught in the New York school system for years, before partnering with NASA and Andy Aldren, son of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldren, to write and develop curriculum to foster science literacy and inspire the next generation of Mars-bound astronauts. He also works part time for NASA with the Solar System Ambassador program.
The Montessori approach to education emphasizes scientific observation. Fulco’s lessons are a way to reinforce those principles while presenting students with new information from different fields like environmental science, biology, engineering and astronomy. His afterschool program takes students outside the classroom and is meant to generate awareness of the environment, said Fulco.
“Hands-on science helps to engage learners and build a greater understanding of concepts. Although the information can be remembered through books, it has a more meaningful impact when self-discovery is involved,” said Treasure Village Montessori Principal Kelly Mangel. “Science is more than just a memorization of facts; the after-school club allows for active conversations and conceptual exploration. We are very lucky to have the opportunity to work with Charles.”
During Fulco’s nationwide campaign to promote students viewing the Great American Eclipse last year, the science teacher said, he realized the role the outdoors played in exciting people to learn. He has the numbers to support this notion.
According to a study by the University of Michigan, 88 percent of American adults, roughly 215 million people, watched the solar eclipse in person or electronically. For comparison, that’s about twice the number of people who watched last year’s Super Bowl.
In his initial pilot lesson for the afterschool program, Fulco welcomed Aquarium Encounters’ Chance Ruder and Sarah Meng as guest speakers to teach students about marine mammal adaptability in different environments.
His upcoming lessons are based on learning activities featured in NASA lesson plans that are very hands-on, require thought, and are engaging. Students can learn about the forces in motion during a shuttle launching when they construct and launch their own model rockets. Fulco says he plans on showing students how trigonometry can be used to determine the height traveled by the rocket.
When the group learns about solar systems, Fulco teaches students how to tell time using the sun, and even creates a solar oven that can cook food. His first life science lesson will show students how to make their own butterfly garden.
The science enrichment program begins on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 3:30 p.m.; 24 students are expected to participate in the program, which may continue after the scheduled six weeks if successful.