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Ambrose School teacher incorporates real-life experience into science lessons

Josh Baker, a civil engineer, takes pride in transforming lessons from books into something students can do, see and hear.

GARDEN CITY, Idaho — Editor's note: This content is sponsored by CapEd Credit Union

On a Tuesday afternoon, science teacher Josh Baker stands in an empty classroom at The Ambrose School. That’s because he teaches 10th and 11th graders who are part of the Bridge Program at Ambrose's training center in Garden City.

“It's kind of like a hybrid between homeschooling and traditional school,” Baker said. 

On some days, like Tuesday, the students are learning from home. When they're back in the classroom, Baker prides himself on giving his students a hands-on experience and transforming the lessons they read about in a book to witnessing it firsthand. 

“It's a lot better than watching a video online or, you know, just talking through it if they can actually see what's happening and touch it with their hands and feel it and you know, get all of their senses engaged with their vision and their hearing. They can hear things going on," Baker said. "It's amazing to experience it that you can't necessarily do if you're just talking about it.”

He received an Idaho CapEd Foundation Teacher Grant to buy materials to build a lab in the classroom.

“We were able to get some things for our electricity and magnetism experiments that we do for physics and I got was able to get a bunch of different chemicals and glassware and things like that, for our chemistry class, which has been amazing to give a real hands-on experience for our kids,” Baker said. 

Mix those materials in with Baker's real-world knowledge and it sparks even more interest for his students.

“I’m actually a civil engineer as is my other job. so teaching is a part-time job for me, and being an engineer, I take a lot of time I have to be a part of the things that I do be a part of the construction projects, be in the design, go see what the designs have done, where we need to change what we don't,” Baker said. “I think for the kids in this generation, they really need to experience those scientific things tangibly.” 

He wants his students to apply those lessons to the real world.

“When they go out from these walls, and they go on to the rest of their life that they have an experience of, you know, what does magnetism mean to me?  That compass in the car runs on magnetism... What is the earth's magnetic pole versus true north, the true north pole, right? So they get to experience all these things,” Baker said.

Next week, the students will do a different hands-on activity with a compass. 

“We're going to do a land navigation course, they're going to learn how to navigate with a compass, but they're also going to learn a lot about weight. the magnetic pole is not the same as the true North Pole,” Baker said. “So, we're going to get to learn a little bit about like declination and how to read a map. and we're going to get to do science with what magnet what the earth's magnetic field is like and the phenomenon that go along with that.” 

Drawing his students in and preparing them for when they leave his classroom. 

“For the students who are going to college, I want to prep them as best they can for that experience, for the ones that don't want to go in, I would encourage a lot of them, 'hey, go into the trades, if you want to go be an electrician, go be an electrician, let me teach you some stuff about circuits that's going to help when you go into that electrical trade,'” Baker said.

He adds, the moment when an element clicks for a student, is one of his favorite elements of being a teacher.

“It's a beautiful thing for me huge blessing because I suddenly get to kind of relive those times where I realized something for the first time, it's like, ‘oh, yes, I finally understand it,’ for these kids seeing that look on their face is just, it's the best feeling in the world,” Baker said.

If you would like to nominate an innovative educator for us to feature, just email us at innovativeeducator@ktvb.com and tell us how they're going above and beyond. Educators, if you'd like information on submitting an application for a classroom grant, visit capedfoundation.org.

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