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Southington teachers hope to offer interactive science program again

SOUTHINGTON — Teachers are hoping to offer a program again that allows students to work with scientists at Talcott Mountain Science Center in Avon.

Spearheaded by Erin Nattrass, a teacher at Kelley School, and Jonathan Cop, a teacher at Thalberg School, the program was run on a test basis with 29 fifth-grade students last school year.

The students were able to study a topic of their choice. Subjects included re-usable energy, weather patterns, cell mutation and sharks.

Talcott Mountain Science Center for Student Involvement is a regional, non-profit educational and research facility dedicated to increasing students’ understanding and appreciation of their physical world, according to the center’s website.

It occupies more than 20 acres atop Talcott Mountain. Students visited Talcott Mountain on weekends and video-chatted with scientists on their projects.

“The sky was the limit for these kids and they totally went with it and came up with some phenomenal projects,” Nattrass said at last week’s school board meeting.

Since the pilot program was funded by a federal grant, Nattrass and Cop hoped it could be offered again.

“For a pilot, it looks like it’s really done well,” said school board member David Derynoski. “I would like to see a lot more students included. I think it’s really a nice program. I support it, 100 percent.”

Nattrass and Cop discussed the program with school board members. Cop said expectations could have been explained earlier and better communication with parents earlier would have helped.

“That was a massive undertaking for students and families,” Cop said. “There was a lot of content.”

Nattrass said while the students enjoyed doing most of the work independently, that there could have been more guidance as students created project time lines and goals.

The benefits included students collaborating with scientists using the resources of Talcott Mountain.

“This program is offering a resource in science for students that have that passion,” said school board member Patricia Queen. “I would love to see this long term.”

School board member Terry Lombardi “applauded” the teacher’s efforts Thursday.

“I especially like opening this up to other students,” she said.

Both Nattrass and Cop agreed that opening the program to more students would be beneficial.

“We’re having a conversation with Talcott Mountain about some opportunities that may be available through grant funding to move forward,” Cop said.

“It’s a maybe, it’s not a guarantee. That’s still a question mark.” (203) 317-2212 Twitter: @FollowingFarrah

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