Etna Road Elementary School students didn't have the opportunity to feverishly push a broom as a smooth stone slid across a sheet of ice -- but they still had fun playing a modified match of curling Jan. 16, all while learning scientific processes.

The success of the hands-on classroom experiment has made a believer of Sheryl Jones, a fifth-grade science teacher at Etna Road, who said she will look for further opportunities to employ the "inquiry method" of teaching in the classroom.

Jones said the idea to use a modified curling rink to teach force, motion and other scientific concepts stemmed from a class she took at Ohio State University called "NFTI Science."

Pronounced "nifty," the term stands for "nonfiction text in inquiry-based science."

Inquiry-based learning is a teaching technique in which teachers strive to inspire curiosity and excitement in students.

Jones took her idea to Jessica Moore, Etna Road's principal, who gave it the green light.

"Mrs. Jones is a hands-on teacher who focuses on inquiry as part of the scientific process. As (force, motion and friction) are a large part of fifth-grade science standards, she is always looking for new ways to teach her students in engaging ways," Moore said.

Those engaging ways included the placement of curling rinks in her classroom Jan. 16, cut from about 70 feet of vinyl material the school purchased.

Instead of using stones, students pushed furniture sliders, little plastic discs used to help roll furniture legs across carpet and floors, Jones said.

Instead of brooms, students placed a pair of blocks on the court, then experimented with using velocity and different release points to make the sliders bounce off the blocks and into the scoring circle, or to knock opponents' sliders out of the circle.

"Most of the students worked on getting their own sliders inside the scoring circle," Jones said.

After the curling match, students set up ramps and dropped the sliders onto the court after it was covered with various materials of differing textures, such as poster board or sandpaper.

The exercise was to demonstrate friction and how some substances create greater friction and slow or stop the slider, Jones said.

The inquiry method, Jones said, involves illustrating a scientific concept to students, then having students verbally describe it, rather than the other way around.

After the experiments, students were asked to describe what they had witnessed -- an exercise that will be useful for future state-mandated testing when asked, for instance, to describe or provide examples of force, motion and friction, Jones said.

"Every student learns a little different," Jones said. "Some learn better from formal instruction, some from exercises."

Lexi Baldwin, 11, a fifth-grade student in Jones' class, said it was fun to learn how to make the necessary adjustments to get the sliders into the scoring circle.

"I was careful in how I pushed it but it still didn't go in sometimes," she said. "It was to learn what you had to do to get it where you wanted it to go."

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo