Lessons aim to cultivate little scientists

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NAUGATUCK — Second-graders in Laura Sergi’s class at Western Elementary School huddled around glasses with melting ice inside Wednesday afternoon as they learned about different states of matter — in this case water — from a pair of scientists.

The scientists came from Little Scientists, a company that provides next generation science education products and services for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

“All young children are natural scientists, and it’s critical for us to provide strong foundations in science so that all of the students in Naugatuck that want to become scientists will be capable of securing great jobs in the field on science, technology, innovation, engineering and medicine,” said Little Scientists founder and CEO Heidi Gold-Dworkin.

Students at Western as well as Hillside and Cross Street intermediate schools can look forward to many more science lessons from Little Scientists.

SurfCT.com, a Naugatuck-based global medical and dental technology company, donated $7,000 to fund 40 science lessons from Little Scientists at the three schools. Officials announced the sponsorship during an assembly Wednesday at Western.

“Science was very important to me when I was growing up in Naugatuck,” said Paul Vigario, founder and CEO of SurfCT.com.

Vigario, who attended Naugatuck schools, credited science with starting him on his career path.

“This sponsorship is a tremendous opportunity for SurfCT to help cultivate students’ love of science through these lessons,” he said.

Caroline Messenger, director of curriculum for Naugatuck schools, said the Board of Education had previously funded the Little Scientists program at the elementary schools that past two years, but there was no more funding for the program this school year. She said Western Principal Brenda Goodrich reached out to Gold-Dworkin about possibly continuing the program at her school, which set the wheels in motion for the sponsorship.

Messenger said officials decided to expand the program to fifth grade, and she’s hopeful the district can continue the program at the elementary schools in the future.

The additional science lessons come at a time when student achievement in science is measured by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) test, and the state factors the scores into how it measures the performance of schools and districts. The NGSS test is administered to students in grades five, eight and 11, and last year was the first time it was administered statewide.

The lessons are designed to bolster the science curriculum in Naugatuck and help prepare students for the state science standards, and the future.

“We know that early science and participation in early science leads to really good educational learning later because you (students) learn how to be good scientists, and you’ll use those skills in all of your schools,” Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add comments from Caroline Messenger, director of curriculum for Naugatuck schools.