By Jess Hames
My experience working with the engineer students has been eventful to say the least. Like with any experience, there has been ups and downs. In the end though, I can say that this experience was extremely successful. Our group focused on teaching electricity. A topic I was uneasy about. Luckily for our group, we had one of the best engineer students to work with. Erik was a blessing to our group. He made all the difference in the success of our time with the students.
The easiest way to explain our group is to start from the beginning. I was apprehensive at first to work with a group of students not focused on teaching. The engineers were focused on biomedical engineering (something I had no interest in). Our entire group was thrown together rather quickly based on the day we could teach. I was pronounced leader for the teachers and Tim was voted leader for the engineer students.
We next had to choose our topic and we teachers were focused on the age range of the students (which were 2nd to 4th grade) and the content that should be presented. The engineer students had a different idea in mind. They wanted to teach about electricity and felt very strongly about this. I was apprehensive considering I didn’t feel confident in teaching electricity and felt that the students may be too young to grasp the concepts.
In the end, the engineers won. We agreed to stick with electricity with the hope that everyone from both groups would participate and help create lesson plans that went along with the fun “experiments” the engineers had in store. For collaboration purposes, our group decided to join together on Facebook and create a group that everyone could read and post on. This seemed like a great way for all of us with hectic schedules to communicate.
Since this was the last meeting all of us would have, it was up to everyone as individuals to participate in the group. I required the engineers to send at least one of their students to each lesson taught. They agreed that this could be done with no problem. Before leaving, I required my group to figure out a plan for who was going to teach and when. This was done by myself teaching every week along with a partner teacher each week for 4 lessons. The final 2 teachers would be in charge of creating the video. The final lesson would be led by the engineer students so only I was needed to help manage the students.
We received some class time to meet with our groups which was spent discussing electricity and the different aspects we wanted to cover. As a group, we teachers decided to focus on the when, where, how, and why of electricity. I divided up the sections and decided the day each section of information would be covered along with who would be teaching. This process moved fairly smoothly. I then requested that each teacher find information and ideas for their lesson and post it to our Facebook group as quickly as possible so that we could keep the engineer students involved.
None of what I expected to happen did. The teachers seemed only interested in the lesson planning during the week of their lessons, most of the engineer students had no input for the lessons, and every aspect of the group felt very detached. I posted lesson plans for the upcoming weeks and asked the engineer students for ideas for hands-on activities. Not once was an effort made to help out with the lessons on the Facebook group. It felt that none of the teachers or engineer students were wanting to be a part of the whole club process. I began to quit posting information to the Facebook group and dealt only with the teacher teaching the following week. I would inform her of the information she needed to know in order to tweak her lesson. In the end, I can look back at the lessons and say that sadly we didn’t meet our standard for electricity. But I can also say that each Wednesday was an eventful one. Students did learn a least one different piece of electricity each time we met. We were also able to keep the students engaged and active in the lessons and each time the students were thrilled to be there.
Looking back, I can tell you what went well. Erik, the engineer student, came each week. He and I were the constants of the group. We got to know each other and all of the 13 students. We were able to recall information taught previously and focus on what still needed work. We began to speak outside of the group for different ideas. I was able to communicate with him easily and efficiently. From the beginning he was someone we could turn to for questioning and to be an extra set of hands.
Erik did a fantastic job with the students. He was engaged the entire time. He took the time to get to know each students and took the time to get them excited about science. He never allowed for a dull moment. He could easily walk up to a student and get them engaged in electricity. He always had questions up his sleeve which got the students thinking. He was able to think of ways to continuously make electricity important in the student’s eyes.
I can safely say that if it weren’t for Erik and I being a part of the group and taking the initiative to be there every time, it would have most likely failed. We began to rely on ourselves to get things done. We enjoyed being there with those students and enjoyed teaching. We wanted to go every week and wanted to be a part of the learning. I had only wished that the other teachers and engineer students had felt the same way because it truly was quite the experience I will never forget.