Science teacher Joel Jacko is technically retired.
But he won’t lay down his goggles just yet, not as long as he is teaching “Flyers, Lifters and Grabbers,” a Project Enrich STEM Academy class sponsored by WSWHE BOCES’ Gift and Talented Program.
“These kids are really pretty sharp,” said Mr. Jacko who teaches the six-week course at the F. Donald Myers Education Center. “I’m very lucky to have such students because they are motivated."
On Thursday afternoons, his dozen students in grades four to eight gather to build – from scratch - miniature cranes, catapults and cherry pickers. Working with wood, glue, rubber bands, cardboard and other household items, the students reveal themselves as curious inventors.
“I like the classes,” said Joseph, a fifth grader from Saratoga Springs. “It’s pretty cool. Right now, I’m building a catapult.”
After the students finish crafting their small constructions, the students draw schematics for their designs. Throughout, they learn the pros and cons of working with pneumatics and hydraulics.
Each class starts with a meeting in which Mr. Jacko, who is a former National Science Foundation elementary school specialist in Hauppauge, Long Island, discusses the principals of the designs. That includes where the strength and energy is stored for their tiny devises to operate.
After a discussion, the students continue independently with their projects under Mr. Jacko’s watchful eye.
“I’m proud of these students. They know so much more than we give them credit for,” he said. “What they are doing is pretty advanced; and Kim [Wegner] of the Gifted and Talented program has been very supportive, getting the students everything they need to learn. It’s really been a wonderful experience.”
The students nodded their heads in agreement, with fourth graders Dustin concluding: “It’s cool.”