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Future Science Teachers Gain Hands-On Experience at UW

November 9, 2017
two boys holding up a molecule model
Fischer Kirven (left) and Teddy Hart (right), middle school students at the UW Lab School, show off a molecule model they created at one of the learning centers. (UW Photo)

Next semester, University of Wyoming students in College of Education Associate Professor Andrea Burrows’ “Science Methods II” class will be student-teachers across the state. This time next year, they each hope to be teaching their own middle and high school science classes. That’s why practical, hands-on experience putting the concepts they’ve learned to the test is so important.

As part of their coursework this semester, the students each created a science learning center for middle school students. Then, fifth- and sixth-graders from the UW Lab School came to experience the learning centers firsthand.

“The whole idea of a learning center is that the students are teaching themselves this information instead of you standing up front and talking,” says Danielle Larson, of Cody, who will student-teach at Cheyenne East High School.

The UW students started by picking a misconception in science.

“From that misconception, you have to design a way to teach it efficiently with steps and questions to get the point across quickly,” Larson says. “I think it’s really useful, especially in the K-12 classroom.”

Topics ranged from understanding genes to how mountains are formed, to what cells make up organisms and whether lava rocks are magnetic. Each center included written information and instruction on a display board, plus a hands-on component.

“It lets the kids be a little more active in their own learning process,” says Loretta Carpenter, of Jarrettsville, Md., who will student-teach at Laramie High School and hopes to teach earth science or geology in the future.

Burrows says all of the students in her class are getting certification in secondary science of some kind.

“Part of what we do in this class is to try to create experiences for them to showcase their knowledge, but also get experience with what works and what doesn’t work,” Burrows says.

Jonathan Guffman, of Burlington, who will student-teach at the Lab School, appreciates the class’s practical focus.

“Methods II is designed around teaching us some techniques that we can actually use in the classroom,” says Guffman, who hopes to teach chemistry or math in the future.

three children and a woman examining rocks
UW Lab School students, from left, Gia Rynders, Michael Harry and Gabriel Myers learn about different types of rocks from UW student Hailey Ryan, of Sheridan. As part of their coursework this semester, students in UW Associate Professor Andrea Burrows’ “Science Methods II” class each created a science learning center for middle school students. (UW Photo)

Hannah Kienzle, of Gillette, who will student-teach biology at Sage Valley Junior High School in her hometown, focused her learning center on organisms and their cells.

“It was really interesting seeing the kids interact with it,” she says. “Some organisms only have one cell, which was another misconception in that area. That was a big thing that pretty much all the students learned.”

After the firsthand experience with middle school students, the Methods II students learned ways to refine their learning centers for the future.

Students in the Methods II course, along with their hometowns, are:

Burlington -- Jonathan Guffman.

Cody -- Danielle Larson.

Gillette -- Hannah Kienzle.

Greybull -- John Chestnut.

Jackson -- Tina Switzer.

Jarrettsville, Md. -- Loretta Carpenter.

Laramie -- Atussa Niswender.

Phoenix, Ariz. -- Caitlin Kennedy.

Powell -- Jessica Wurzel.

Sheridan -- Morgan Krysl and Hailey Ryan.

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