Teachers always look for ways to connect with kids and demonstrate the real world use of what they learn in school and a Wyoming teacher recently received national recognition for applying what she learned in a rainforest to her classroom.
"We're learning about fun stuff and I didn't expect us to do like a space shuttle unit where we had to build our own space shuttles," said fifth grade student Connor Isakson.
Students in Laurie Graves' fifth grade class in Big Horn Elementary seem to enjoy many of their projects, like building straw rockets to learn about aerodynamics.
"We like to do hands-on things," said student Kennady Myers.
"We find that doing a lot of cross-curricular work with a project-based learning approach gives the students a relevancy for what they're learning," said Graves.
Graves was one of 102 U.S. teachers to receive the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science Teaching last month. She was recommended by University of Wyoming professor Scott Shaw, who brought her to a rainforest in Ecuador in 2010 for entomology research.
"We did field research and developed circle plots for watching change over time and I brought those experiences back. We've used those in our science classes," said Graves.
And students are responding well to the curriculum changes.
"We took the students into the field last fall and they developed circle plots. They worked in teams and they watched for growth of plant life. We looked for different types of insects. They found animal prints," said Graves.
"I didn't expect to go outside and keep track of all the changes that go outside," said Kennady.
Graves will also receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation as part of her award.