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STEM Lessons Bring Learning To Life For Elementary Kids
Volunteer Gary Ball watches as Dent second grade students Remi Meier, in back and Ryder Loff, foreground, get ready to launch their handmade aircraft, part of a recent STEM lesson. Marg Jackson/The Times
Second grade students Trisha Freitas, left, and Maya Vega-Arias discuss the making of their airplane with STEM volunteer Gary Ball, as they get ready to test its flight capabilities. Marg Jackson/The Times

He may be retired, but Gary Ball is still teaching.

He is one of a number of retirees that are staying active in local schools, working with youngsters in the STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, curriculum.

For the kids, it’s a chance to step outside the traditional classroom for some hands on activities, and for Ball and others like him, it’s a chance to stay connected to today’s youth.

“It’s fun,” Ball said, working with a second grade class recently at Dent Elementary School.

He learned of the program, offered through the San Joaquin County Office of Education, and said he has been active in it for about three years.

“Dave Mantooth (former EUSD Superintendent) does it out at Farmington and every other Thursday, I’m here at Dent with some activities,” Ball explained.

The lesson on a recent day was creating aircraft, air-powered aircraft, to be specific, with a friendly competition to see which handmade airplane design would fly the farthest with a swoosh of air from the pump.

“I’ve learned a lot about second graders,” Ball added, chuckling, noting that the age group seems to be pretty energized about learning, especially when they get a chance to see their handiwork in action.

“The students are always excited for their time with Mr. Ball. He challenges them to be engineers, test their work, and make changes as necessary,” noted second grade teacher Katie Bartelink. “Ninety percent of the tasks involve working in partners or small groups which is a great opportunity for teamwork. We are all grateful for Mr. Ball and the exciting STEM tasks he brings each visit.”

Ball said it’s a great opportunity for community members to get involved in the education of the next generation.

“It’s just a good activity with the kids,” Ball said.