More than 170 elementary education students at Brigham Young University put on earth science presentations at Joaquin elementary school in Provo this semester, and what began as a lab project for a BYU physical science class has evolved into a mutually beneficial teaching partnership with the local school.
In one presentation, a group of elementary school students circled around each other to act out the planetary movements of the solar system. In another demonstration, students sampled root beer and dry ice to learn about solids, liquids and gasses. Yet another group watched as a large air-filled balloon rose and fell with its temperature, and these were just a few of the interactive learning experiences available to the elementary school students.
"It's hard to learn about science if it doesn't apply to you, and this showed them that science can be fun," said Kirsten Thompson, graduate student in instructional psychology and technology and an organizer of the presentations. "Everybody wins. The [elementary school] students have fun, and our students get practice."
Barry Bickmore, assistant professor of geology and instructor of a BYU physical science course for future teachers, collaborated with Thompson and Charles Graham of BYU's Instructional Psychology and Technology department to structure the presentations around the Utah State Core Standards for earth science, as outlined by the Utah Board of Education.
"We tried our best to make it as useful for the elementary school students as possible, which is why we tried to provide a detailed review of the core standards," Bickmore said.
The presentations' creative review of core standards used in the year-end standardized tests is a big benefit for the elementary school students, said Don Dowdle, principal of Joaquin Elementary, but the involvement of excited college students inspires elementary school students, too.
"A lot of our kids don't have the breadth of vision for the possibilities for their future because many of their parents don't have extensive education," Dowdle said. "To open up and hear college students that come with enthusiasm, they think, 'Maybe I can do something like that.'"
The BYU students found the benefits were mutual.
"Being able to work with elementary children and see firsthand the effect teachers have on their students affected me in the most positive way," said Tami Larson, a student in Bickmore's class. "It allowed me to be in an actual teaching environment and to realize that I need to learn to enjoy my science courses so that I can instill that love of learning in my students. If I don't love what I'm doing, then how will they ever have a love? Children learn by example, and I realized that I need to be that example to them."
Writer: Lexi Allen