Newtonian physics and EmDrive technology and are perhaps not subjects one might expect to see included in a class curriculum for sixth grade science students. But throw in some rocketry, and you have an average day for Sultan Middle School science teacher Brian Pinkerton.
A teacher for over 30 years, Pinkerton is finishing up his first year at Sultan Middle School, having moved to the Sky Valley area from Ohio last year. He stumbled across the job posting while in the area engaged in post-doctoral work, and decided that Sultan Middle School was where he wanted to be. Although he never really planned to leave Ohio, Sultan Middle School Principal Nathan Plummer’s charismatic leadership and passion for education inspired him to apply for the job.
“This is a school in the building phase with a tremendous amount of potential,” Pinkerton said.
Already, he has had a major impact, on both his students and the school as a whole.
One of his most significant efforts landed 46 sixth-graders at this year’s Washington State Science Engineering Fair (WSSEF), an elite competition meant to showcase and award the state’s most promising science students. WSSEF and its sponsors awarded over $1.8 million at this year’s event, which featured over 700 different projects completed by students across the state.
Sultan Middle School performed at an extraordinarily high level, achieving enough first, second and third place honors to earn “School of the Year,” an illustrious, highly sought-after title based not only on the number of projects a school brings to the competition, but how well those projects do in the judging process. SMS was one of only four schools in state to achieve School of the Year.
Pinkerton hopes to do even better next year, and wants to involve students in other grade-levels as well.
One of the things that has stood out the most to him since arriving in Sultan, is that his students are exceptionally high-achievers, he said. They’re smart, they’re engaged and they love learning. So far this year they’ve gone deep into Newtonian physics, studying things like force, motion, velocity and acceleration. He’s successfully paired classroom instruction with hands-on interactive lab work, creating a true learn-by-doing environment.
He has been consistently impressed by his students’ abilities.
“I’ve got a math teacher teaching them dimensional analysis right now,” Pinkerton said. “It’s phenomenal – I’ve never seen anything like it.”
They’ll be finishing out the year looking at electromagnetic waves and the EmDrive, a seemingly impossible propulsion system that is being studied by NASA engineers.
His goal for next year is to continue to immerse his students in science. He plans to further restructure and enhance the science curriculum at SMS, and possibly create an honors-level science class that would enable students to take things to the next level. Even kids who aren’t straight A students can be topnotch science kids, Pinkerton said, and that’s something he wants to encourage as much as possible.
“We want to be one of the top schools in the state and we think we can get there. We’ve got the kids,” Pinkerton said. “We’ve got great kids and real supportive parents and that’s what it takes.”