Gayla Hammer
Lander Middle School
Lander, Wyoming USA

I have found the best way to teach sixth grade standards is to make connections to students' lives and environment. My students learn to solve personal, local and national problems by using the principles of scientific inquiry. These ideas are taught in an integrative manner such that science is connected to other subject areas. My language arts and social studies colleagues co-teach with me to create study units that span multiple subjects. Another focus of my teaching is to show students how scientific knowledge changes and grows over time. Putting these discoveries in a historical context enhances students' understanding of the scientific process.

The most powerful teaching environments are historical places, which are abundant in our community. A visit to the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp showed students what life was like for interned Japanese Americans in a way that a textbook never could. This experience was further enriched by a conversation with a former interned citizen. When Senator Al Simpson shared his experience during WWII and his struggles to provide reparations for Japanese Americans, the students were able to put these events in the appropriate context. Engaging students in these ways provides an impactful experience and gives them a solid foundation for lifelong learning.