Exciting — that’s what Blake Hammond wants learning to be for his students.
With activities including a “gourd-kart” race (where students construct go-karts made of vegetables or fruits) and taking a scooter through a huge model of the heart, the kids are hard-pressed to be bored.
“I believe that hands-on and inquiry are the way to get kids into science,” says Hammond, a sixth grade science teacher at Merrill Middle School.
His own experience with science in school propelled him to teach the subject.
“I decided to go into my weakest area as the area I would actually teach because I wanted to make it real, exciting and fun, because it wasn’t for me growing up,” says Hammond, who received a bachelor’s in elementary and middle school education, with a focus in science, from the University of Northern Iowa. He also has a master’s in school administration from Viterbo University.
He says providing different experiences helps keep students engaged, whether they’re learning about the scientific method or human body systems.
For example, students this year will get to act out different medical emergencies from the standpoint of what’s going on inside the body.
“We’re really excited about that because I think the kids will really dig acting out what’s really happening in the human body when emergencies occur,” Hammond says. “Rather than reading or talking about it, they get to act it out.”
Hammond and Mary Ann Greteman, a physical education teacher at Merrill, have also collaborated on projects, including building a large model of the human heart made of PVC pipe and material. Students act as a blood cell moving through the heart, using scooters to meander through the structure.
Hammond has been instrumental in a variety of projects at Merrill helping to make learning more interesting for kids. He helped raise about $85,000 for the school’s “fitness arcade,” featuring video game-driven fitness activities.