Elementary education students ready for student teaching

June 20, 2012, 4:44 pm
Elementary education student Carolyn Howard explains how lava lamps work

Take one mini water bottle, add three-fourths cup cooking oil, a quarter cup water and a few drops of food coloring. Then place the lid back on the bottle and give it a good shake. Finally, put an anti-acid tablet in the mixture and watch the colors foam and fizz. If you followed the directions, you just created two things—a mini lava lamp and a huge mess.

Early last week a group of elementary-aged children did the exact same thing, but amidst the laughing and paper towels cleaning up the mess, they learned about solutions, density and the phases of matter.

NNU Assistant Professor of Education Cathy Beals knows that hands-on learning is the best way to make a science lesson “stick.” Instead of only lecturing to her students, she tasked them with creating a science lesson for K-6 students to practice teaching before student teaching this fall.

While a semester of student teaching is traditional in education programs, NNU’s adult & professional program in education strives to give students as many teaching opportunities as possible. “This event gives these future teachers an opportunity to explain a lesson to real students in a classroom, before they start student teaching,” said Beals.

Eight science lessons were taught including: the types of chemical solutions, how clouds are formed, the soil layers, the food chain, how to make electromagnets and how lava lamps work.

Jason Millus (Caldwell) taught a lesson on the rock cycle by using “metamorphic sandwiches,” taking day old slices of bread and squishing them together using heat and pressure just like rock layers in the earth’s crust. “They were giggling and laughing and ewwing while learning.” When asked how the evening helped him as a teacher, he replied, “The more experience I have doing a lesson, the better I’ll become.”

Andrea Weaver (Nampa) has been in the program for six months and taught on soil layers by making “dirt pudding” complete with brownies gravel and sugar cookie sand. “No matter the age of the student, the hands-on learning is huge,” said Weaver.

“Some of these future teachers have always wanted to teach, but things never lined up. With this program, they are finally doing what they love,” said Beals about the 21 nontraditional students in the program. “My students come from all circumstances; some are changing careers, some have never gone to college till now and most have jobs and families.” The opportunity to teach a science workshop is a huge step in getting into a career these students love.

The real measure of success for this evening was the children’s response. Doug, who will be going into 5th grade next year said, “That was awesome! I wish they would teach science like that in my school; I would learn better and love science, and the best part was we could eat the experiments at the end!”

To find out more about the graduate, adult & professional programs offered at NNU visit or come to the monthly Info Night, 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, July 17 at the NNU Boise Center located in the Washington Group Plaza, Suite 105.

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