Oohs and ahhs were common as the young scholars watched Special Inspector Ryan Bigger of Ninyo & Moore Geotechnical and Environmental Sciences Consultants demonstrate how workers compact the soil where the students may one day witness a play or musical production.

Every day during recess, the students of Will Rogers Learning Community hear the sounds of construction crews across the street continuing the necessary work needed to bring John Adams Middle School’s Performing Arts Center to life.

Once lunch is completed, the fourth-grade students of Sylvia Kerkotchian’s class head inside to occasionally learn about the same concepts that the engineers across the way are putting to practice.

With Will Rogers seeking to become an international baccalaureate school, Kerkotchian said in an interview last week, “We did this whole unit around a geology focus that had students solve a problem in the village of Nepal, where the community needs a tar-pool. And they had to do soil testing and look at maps and different things to figure out where is the best place to make this tar-pool so they could then write a proposal.”

“By chance” Kerkotchian added, “we had put this up on Twitter and turns out that they were doing the compacting over here across the street at John Adams Middle School, and they had reached out to us and asked if the kids would like to see real-life compaction happen, so obviously I jumped at the chance.”

When students were learning about compaction in class, they were using their hands and pennies to conduct their soil testing, but Kerkotchian felt the lesson would have much more of an impact on the students if they were able to witness how the lesson directly translates into real-life, “ and it was an amazing opportunity,” she said.

Oohs and ahhs were common as the young scholars watched the various professionals demonstrate a few pieces of machinery that they were using to compact the soil where the students may one day witness a play or musical production. When the adults were finished with the lesson, the class enjoyed an opportunity to ask any questions it may have had, including the level of education that’s required for the job as well as what it feels like to demolish a building.

“You often hear about STEM and the word engineering, but you rarely get to see an engineer in action, and there’s a lot of different types of engineers — like a geotechnical engineer has a different job than a civil engineer,” Kerkotchian said, “so, you know, seeing those opportunities is really amazing because the kids can see them and think, ‘This is something that’s attainable for myself.’”

“And I love that social media was a catalyst for this,” Kerkotchian said. “And, also, I think that we need to look at the different ways our community can provide our kids with more of these types of opportunities because I’m sure we’re sitting on tons of things that the community thinks would be awesome and would be willing to show us so the kids could see kind of how their lessons translate… I’m going to be tweeting way more now.”

brennon@smdp.com

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