Teacher makes science fun
Written by MARIE THOMAS BAIRD Sentinel Education Editor
Saturday, 05 October 2013 08:18
PEMBERVILLE - Donny Burkin wants to make science fun.
|Donny Burkin holds up a lava rock as he poses in front of his classroom “window” Monday afternoon at Eastwood Middle School. (Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
For the Eastwood Middle School sixth-grade teacher, fun means games in class, learning projects and interactive field trips.
He and 117 sixth-graders are heading Monday to Camp Michindoh, an outdoor education school in Hillsdale, Mich., that meets the academic content standards and benchmarks in science in Ohio.
Burkin and teachers have been wearing tie-dyed T-shirts to help excite students for the trip.
The staff will make a memory DVD of this year's camp to show to next year's sixth-graders.
During Science Week each year, he invites in a cardiologist, with a cow's heart; a veterinarian, who usually brings in a goat or lamb; a physical therapist; and representatives from the EPA and Wood County Park District.
The same guests often come every year.
"They like to come back," Burkin said.
His homeroom class also has instigated a recycling program at the middle school, introducing aluminum and plastic to the paper recycling program.
"That's not part of the curriculum," he admitted.
The new Common Core requirements have changed his lessons, taking away energy and genetics.
"Now it's just spend greater time in-depth in fewer topics," Burkin stated.
"It seems like I have to get through the curriculum part before I can have some fun."
He has students crush rocks during the "rock cycle" he teaches, showing the difference between metamorphic, igneous and sedimentary rocks.
He appreciates the learning that can come from hands-on projects.
"Microscopes are a huge hit," in class, he said.
He also has students swab their cheeks or cut up onions and lettuce to learn about cells and has taken them outside to draw soil samples to study soil layers.
On the Friday before the rival Ohio State University/University of Michigan football game, his class plays "Burkin Dome Football" as a review of all science vocabulary up to that point in the year.
He has created an interactive football field/scoreboard on his Smart Board and divides the classroom in half by using tape on the floor. That keeps OSU fans from walking on the UM side of the room, he explained.
To play the game, two students play "head to head," one from each team. Burkin asks a question like "what type of rock is formed from cooling lava?" The first person to write the answer down on their dry-erase board correctly wins.
A correct answer could result in a 50-yard pass play or an interception, depending on which team is on offense.
"That's always a big hit," he stated.
He tells them the winner of the contest will have their team win on game day.
He laughed, admitting that has not always been the case, and has had to face students' ire the following Monday.
Last year he introduced an edible car competition, in which students had to plan, then design a blueprint and logo for their car, made completely from edible food.
The only requirement was it had to have two axles and be able to roll down a ramp.
His style is to teach first, do second.
"I like them to learn the terms first, then play with (the lessons)," he stated.
"They make a connection with Donny," said Principal John Obrock. "Donny's a fun-loving guy and he makes a connection with kids."
Burkin also runs an intervention program after school for all sixth-graders, a summer intervention program, is student council advisor, plus advises a science club.
The club "is a lot of fun. Kids really enjoy that," said Obrock.
The science club, with about 30 students, has taken tours of the wind turbines in Bowling Green, the planetarium at Bowling Green State University, and the Perrysburg water treatment plant.
He has spent 16 of his 19 years in education at Eastwood.
"He's around kids all the time, and does a lot for them," Obrock said.
"They notice that and they appreciate that."