Kettering Elementary School
At left: Susan Gomez-Zwiep
Undergrads from CSU Long Beach hope the second time is the charm when it comes to teaching science lessons to elementary students. They presented original lessons to Kettering students a few months ago in small groups, and discovered (surprise, surprise!) that things don’t always go as planned. So now they are back, with modified lessons, to try again with a different group of students.
Some college students teach youngsters the difference between solids, liquids and gas. Others teach about electricity. All incorporate state science standards for each grade, says CSU Long Beach science coordinator Tim Williamson, CFA.
Youngsters perform hands-on experiments under the supervision of college students, who work under the supervision of CSU professors while Teachers Association of Long Beach (TALB) members look on and offer advice and encouragement as needed.
While children pour water into containers, blow up balloons and watch lightbulbs turn on after hooking wires to batteries, theory becomes a reality they can see and touch and understand. Researchers might describe what’s taking place as a series of experiments resulting in positive outcomes shown by students’ skyrocketing science scores.
The future teachers then go in the library to “debrief” about what went right or wrong. Some admit that they were thrown by the inclusion of students with special needs, but were able to scaffold instruction and switch gears.
“It was a great experience,” says Hai Bui. “I can’t wait to have my own classroom. It really boosted my confidence.”
Having the opportunity to try out theory in an actual classroom is priceless, say professors.
“You can’t teach this stuff,” says Susan Gomez-Zwiep, a professor at the university’s Science Department of Education and CFA member. “My students now understand that for children and teaching, there’s a fine line between cognitive understanding and being entertained.”
Kim Watten, Kettering teacher and TALB member, loves having university visitors.
“We see creative things that we might want to try. Sometimes I’ll think, ‘Wow, I never thought about teaching it that way.’”
Amy Valinsky-Fillipow of Kettering believes the program helps TALB members stay fresh, especially since funds for teacher training have evaporated.
“Just because I’ve been teaching for 16 years doesn’t mean I can’t learn something from these young people,” she says. “When someone fresh comes in who is excited and motivated, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to get new ideas and use that as a springboard to grow.”
Williamson says the program provides “tons of reflection” at all levels of the teaching profession.
“You might say our partnership is a win-win situation for everyone.”
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