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Fifth-graders get ‘current’ to improve MCAS results

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TOWNSEND — Electricity has become essential our everyday lives. Understanding how it works is essential to fifth-graders who will be taking the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test this spring.

Over the past several weeks, 37 classrooms throughout the region have been learning, through a curriculum developed by Unitil, how electricity works to better prepare them for the science portion of the MCAS test.

“It comes at the right time and is a nice refresher for the students,” said Shelley Babin, a fifth grade teacher at Squannacook Elementary School. “They love the hands-on (work) because they can experience it rather than just view it in a textbook.

The program, created and run by the regional utility company, is in its fourth year. It has reached over 775 children in four school systems by providing hands-on experiments and lively discussions that unravel the nuances of electricity.

Unitil launched the program in 2003 in Fitchburg’s Memorial School.

“We have received such positive feedback from the teachers, and the students seem to thrive with the hands-on instruction,” said Stephanye Schuyler, a Unitil public relations executive.

During the hour-long presentation by Unitil consultant Neil Clark, students working in cooperative groups have the chance to learn interactively with their peers, increasing their understanding about circuits and magnets.

Liz Giadone, a fifth grade teacher at Fitchburg Memorial School, said her classroom saw an improvement in the students’ science portion in the MCAS results.

“It goes with MCAS. The program is a perfect fit,” she said.

The state requires that students be tested and meet certain minimum requirements as a result of the Education Reform Law of 1993.

Fifth grade students from Squannacook Elementary School, Ashby Elementary School, T.C. Passios Elementary in Lunenburg, and Fitchburg’s Academy Middle School, Memorial Middle School and B.F. Brown Art Vision School participated in the program.

Unitil provides electrical service to Ashby, Fitchburg, Lunenburg and Townsend and natural gas service to those communities as well as Gardner and Westminster.