TUSTIN : Good Ideas Get Teacher Just Reward

Before their story, songs and games, kindergarten teacher Beth Self’s class at W. R. Nelson Elementary School gets a daily dose of science.

“It’s fun,” 5-year-old Mitchell Williams said of his encounters with science. And that’s the idea behind Self’s “five-minute science experiments.”

Self, one of 11 Tustin Unified School District employees to receive recent “good idea” awards from the Tustin Rotary Club, said she wants children to become familiar and comfortable with simple scientific principles.

The children work their way through the alphabet, doing experiments that correspond with the letter for the week. For example, when they get to “R,” they’ll study rainbows, rainmaking, reasoning and relationships.


This week, the letter was “M,” with measurements, magnifying glasses, mirrors and magnets in the spotlight.

On one morning, four children demonstrated what magnets could pick up.

“I like the big magnets because they pick up a whole bunch of stuff,” 5-year-old Brandon Kenniston said. He also liked using a magnifying glass because it allowed him to “see more pores.”

Magnifying glasses were a big hit, with the children using them to peer at boxes of buttons, rocks and other objects.


“You can see things better with them. I looked at a dandelion and the grass. They looked big,” Mitchell said. “I like experiments. My dad works at a company, and he does experiments. He shows people what he does with instruments and how they work.”

While the experiments last only five minutes, the children often return to the materials later in the day. “There’s a real high interest,” Self said. “They’ll do the same thing over and over again until they really feel tuned into it.”

Self has been teaching at Nelson since it opened in 1965, when her classroom offered a view of orange groves and rabbits instead of houses. Self, who is the district’s Teacher of the Year, has won a previous “good idea award” for monthly books the children make and take home.