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Hands-on learning: Crestline teacher holds summer science workshop

Barb Helton manages the outdoor classroom at Crestline Elementary School, where she teaches environmental science to students in pre-kindergarten through the fourth grade. While school is out, the 32-year classroom veteran has offered science workshops to help keep children in Hartselle engaged and learning through the summer months.

About 40 children learned about raising earthworms and built worm hotels and balloon rockets as part of the workshop experience.

Helton said the scientific name for the earthworm activity is vermicomposting, which is the use of earthworms to convert organic waste into fertilizer. Students learned about this technique at the June 30 workshop, held at the Sparkman Civic Center.

“It’s a great project because when I pick an activity, it’s not just for teaching the kids life skills in the moment but also for the future too,” Helton said.

“Parents are always looking for something for their kids to do in the summer, so if they’re doing to do something, it’s really better for it be something educational,” she added. “I like it because I live on a farm, and I’m constantly outdoors doing things with the environment.”

Initially planning only one workshop that filled to capacity quickly, Helton said she was able to offer two classes June 30 to keep the class sizes manageable.

“I don’t want the class to get so big the children aren’t getting quality instruction – I want to make sure they can get 100 percent of me, so if that requires two or three workshops, then that will be better for the kids,” she said.

“I try to find everyday material we can use to do little activities and experiments – things that the kids can take home and replicate. You might call what we do ‘junk drawer science,’” Helton added. “We try to tie learning into everything we do.”

Helton said she will hold more workshops before the 2021-22 school year begins.