Graduate students teaching elementary earth science through interactive classroom lessons

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:26 PM
Tess Elaina Caswell1, Tim A Goudge1, Erica Ruth Jawin1 and Friedrika Robinson2, (1)Brown University, Providence, RI, United States, (2)Providence Public Schools, Vartan Gregorian Elementary School, Providence, RI, United States
Since 2005, graduate students in the Brown University Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Studies have volunteered to teach science to second-grade students at Vartan Gregorian Elementary School in Providence, RI. Initially developed to bring science into classrooms where it was not explicitly included in the curriculum, the graduate student-run program today incorporates the Providence Public Schools Grade 2 science curriculum into weekly, interactive sessions that engage the students in hypothesis-driven science. We will describe the program structure, its integration into the Providence Public Schools curriculum, and 3 example lessons relevant to geology.

Lessons are structured to develop the students’ ability to share and incorporate others’ ideas through written and oral communication. The volunteers explain the basics of the topic and engage the students with introductory questions. The students use this knowledge to develop a hypothesis about the upcoming experiment, recording it in their “Science Notebooks.” The students record their observations during the demonstration and discuss the results as a group. The process culminates in the students using their own words to summarize what they learned.

Activities of particular interest to educators in geoscience are called “Volcanoes!”, “The “Liquid Race,” and “Phases of the Moon.” The “Volcanoes!” lesson explores explosive vs. effusive volcanism using two simulated volcanoes: one explosive, using Mentos and Diet Coke, and one effusive, using vinegar and baking soda (in model volcanoes that the students construct in teams). In “Liquid Race,” which explores viscosity and can be integrated into the “Volcanoes!” lesson, the students connect viscosity to flow speed by racing liquids down a ramp. “Phases of the Moon” teaches the students why the Moon has phases, using ball and stick models, and the terminology of the lunar phases using cream-filled cookies (e.g., Oreos).

These lessons, among many others, bring basic science to life in second grade classrooms. We will be happy to share their story and to make our lesson plans available to a broader audience.