LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - In the most recent 65 nation program for International Student Assessment, the United States came in 15th in reading, 23rd in math and 31st in science. Brandon Elementary School teacher Teresa Roe is working to do her part to help change those statistics, especially when it comes to science.
It starts with getting her students engaged and excited about learning. On the day we visited the students were studying mixtures, solutions and properties of matter. "We wanted to do an activity where they would be able to use that knowledge in something that's more real world," said Roe.
So, she had them make their own toothpaste. She said it took the students about three weeks to do the research and then come up with individual ingredients. They first made a group version of the toothpaste that they took home and tested. After the home tests they developed the class recipe comprised of four major ingredients.
"They used calcium carbonate for the grittiness and they liked the idea that it had calcium because that had to be good for your teeth, they wanted to use detergent because that would make the foaming of the bubbles and that's something they recognized with the toothpaste at home. The glycerin helped make it 'more slick' as they referred to it being slimy and then the water just to dilute everything," said Roe.
They called it 'Panther Paste' and who better to test it than Lufkin Superintendent Roy Knight. "The students' charge was to design a toothpaste to learn more about compounds and their affect on one another. Our kids were awesome. They developed a toothpaste that was highly effective and tasted awful, but as you saw by the packaging, they saw how to make it sell in Lufkin, Texas. Perhaps, the most important lesson of all is our kids learned to work together. They achieved their educational goals of learning about compounds but more importantly it created a real sense of inquiry in kids' minds. It's been a great learning experience for them and I have a great piece of toothpaste to carry home with me and hopefully I'll build mortar and bricks with it," said Knight.
The students warned Knight beforehand that the toothpaste was not as tasty as they would have liked. "It was terrible, but it works," Knight said.
One of the students took the toothpaste home and tried it out on their countertop and discovered it also worked well as a stain remover.
The toothpaste had all the right ingredients for whitening and cavity protection. They also had a good marketing plan. With a little work on the taste factor and the inside packaging, the project could really take off.
"These kids are our imaginers of the future. They imagined something, had lots of trials, mostly errors, but in the end they created a quality product. Not as tasty as they would want, but they're developing that inventor's mind and a real degree of critical thinking," said Knight.
"It was a great fun way for them to learn science," said Roe.
Roe hopes to channel the energy of those inquiring minds into top science students equipped to compete on the international level.
Somebody's Got To Do It.