Food in class? It’s not a problem in Tyk’s science lab

Melissa Federspill

Staff writer

Making popcorn in the microwave is a simple task most do for enjoyment. Not so much for Amanda Tyk, a fifth-and sixth-grade science teacher at Knippa Independent School District.

For her, making popcorn in the microwave is an opportunity to teach her students about the different types of energy, such as radiation, used in everyday lives. To teach about other forms of energy, such conduction and convection, she makes popcorn in an air popper and Jiffy Pop on a hot plate.

Sixth-graders Daniel Lira and Jordan Alvarado weigh a chunk of chocolate during a science lab in Amanda Tyk’s class. According to Tyk, sixth-graders compared Mr. Goodbar, Hershey and Krackle bars to determine which candy was the densest. Students measured their volume, mass and density. Afterward, students enjoyed fresh chocolate.

With a desire to create an eclectic atmosphere where students will meet learning goals through engaging lessons, Tyk often uses foods and hands-on activities to keep students engaged.

“What kid doesn’t want to snack in school while learning,” Tyk said, when asked about using foods to teach. “When I present material, I want students to comprehend and hopefully retain as much as possible.”

Chocolate bars are used to teach about density, and marshmallow fluff and graham crackers are often used to teach about tectonic plates.

“Labs and activities are always fun when presented correctly, however, edible labs are even better,” Tyk said.

She’s also used gummy bears, gummy snakes, cereal, Goldfish crackers, bear graham cookies, cherries, Swedish fish, and sunflower seeds to engage her students when learning about food webs.

“My philosophy is that all students are extraordinary and need to have a stimulating educational environment in a welcomed, safe classroom,” Tyk said. “I want my students to not only grow as learners but also grow socially, physically, mentally and be the best citizens in and outside the classroom.”

Lemonade is on the menu for Knippa fifth-grade science students Milla Vanderlick and Amelia Stroff as they participate in a mixtures/solutions activity.

Tyk decided to become a teacher and go back to school following a 26-year career with H-E-B. She has been with Knippa ISD for four years where she has been teaching for three. She says the district is supportive of her creativity.

“Knippa is an amazing district that allows the educators to be creative and present materials how we want, as long as we are following TEKS,” Tyk said, while adding that the administration, including interim superintendent Elda Alejandro and Jeff Cottrill are all supportive and available to help guide the teachers.

Tyk is pursuing a master’s of education and is set to complete the program in June of 2020. She’s married, lives in Uvalde, and has three sons.

With the school closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said her students have her phone number and may call or FaceTime her at any time. She’s also sending them voice recordings and videos.

With graham crackers and chocolate pieces in hand, Knippa sixth-graders (left to right) Hayley McGuire, Jared Gardner and James Miller and their classmates await the melting of jumbo marshmallows to complete a tasty science lab centered on studying chemical changes by melting s’mores.

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