Whether it’s in the classroom or on the Internet, neighborhood resident Elizabeth Klammer works to make science fun.
She’s a middle school biology teacher at St. John’s Episcopal School, and if she’s not teaching, Klammer might be working on her online store, kinder-science.com, which offers science and math games and toys.
“I call it a ma-and-pa online store,” she says.
The idea for kinder-science.com came to Klammer because she spent so much time researching places to find affordable science toys for other parents. She set up her website through shopster.com, an online warehouse company. They provide the products, do all the shipping, and keep the books. Klammer simply designs her website, markets it, and picks products from the millions that shopster.com offers – like the game “Mars 2020,” where students are crew members of a spaceship expedition, or an animal tracks kit with footprint molds of barnyard animals.
She says the initial capital investment was minimal. She hopes to build it up over time and offer kinder-science classes.
“I’m not trying to make a million bucks overnight,” Klammer says. “I try to make the lowest price.”
An online store of educational games and toys reflects Klammer’s teaching style – fun. She used to teach high school science, and many of her students complained how boring seventh-grade biology was. And she had a similar experience.
“When I was 12 and 13, I was very much a tomboy,” Klammer says. “I loved going out and picking up bugs.”
Yet, she doesn’t remember her biology class, which was mainly lectures and no labs.
“I was completely bored,” Klammer says. “If you look at my seventh-grade report card, you would never know I would do well in graduate school.”
After receiving her master’s degree in biology, she decided to teach. She lectures, but sparingly. She uses labs, games and art to teach the concepts her students need to learn.
“I’m always on my feet,” Klammer says. “I lecture, and I lab. Hands-on experiences are 80 percent of my curriculum.
“I believe in hitting the children with all their senses. If I can put it in different files in their brain, when they need it, they can pull it out.”
Helen Witt, a former student of Klammer’s who is a senior at Tulane University in New Orleans, says Klammer really backed up her interest in science at a crucial time, junior high, when science isn’t very popular with girls.
“I’ve always been math and science oriented,” says Witt, who is majoring in bio-medical engineering. “But Mrs. Klammer encouraged me, and she gave me confidence.”
When Witt and her classmates finished all of their dissections in seventh-grade, Klammer threw them a crawfish boil to celebrate.
“She was always very active, which made science fun to learn,” Witt says.
And that’s all Klammer wants.
“Your self esteem is built by age 13,” Klammer says. “If you like science by age 13, you can be a doctor.
“I told my mother, I’ll be making doctors. I could have been one excellent doctor, but I’m making thousands of doctors.”