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Not So Remote

Student-teaching goes online, but stays ‘hands-on’

Local school children recently explored new scientific concepts by racing Hot Wheels cars and growing algae. But they were not the only ones engaged in this hands-on learning.

That’s because Bridgewater State University elementary education students became their teachers and gained essential real-world experience. Even in a pandemic, they discovered the significance of making learning tangible. 

“This gave me more of an insight into what we will be doing and how important it will be to do hands-on activities and help students engage,” said Alyssa Cote, ’20, G’22, a Dartmouth resident working toward a master’s degree in elementary education. 

Cote and her graduate school classmates taught students about energy using Hot Wheels cars and racing tracks as part of the Center for the Advancement of STEM Education’s vacation science academy. They devised lessons showing how friction and height affect cars’ movements and introduced potential and kinetic energy.

Meanwhile, undergraduate students taught third-graders at Brockton’s Kennedy Elementary School. As the youngsters grew algae in their classrooms, BSU students Zoomed in to lead lessons about how light, temperature and other factors affect growth. 

Dr. Nicole Glen, an elementary and early childhood education professor, strove to find teaching opportunities even when the pandemic made in-person classroom visits challenging.

“I wanted to make sure all of them as future teachers had real experience with kids,” Glen said. “Particularly in STEM areas, teachers aren’t always doing hands-on lessons in their classroom.”

But Glen wanted students to know what is possible even in a pandemic. In this case, children received supplies so they could complete the experiments at home or in their classrooms.

“This is giving us so much experience that we wouldn’t typically have in an (in-person) classroom,” said Cali Hill, ’22, an elementary education and history major from Dracut. “We have learned so much about how to use technology, integrate lessons with technology and think on our feet.”

Students also learned the importance of interdisciplinary teaching as they wove English lessons in with scientific discovery. They knew their teaching was effective from the smiling faces on the eager children who filled their computer screens.

“It was a really good experience for me seeing the kids’ faces,” said Madison Bowen, ’19, G’22, a Marshfield resident working toward a master’s degree in elementary education. “It was very exciting and made the experience wonderful.”

Students praised Glen and others at BSU for overcoming challenges of the pandemic to ensure they receive an excellent education.

“They clearly want us to succeed,” said Sarah Estrela, ’22, an elementary education and psychology major from Swansea. “They are modeling what it means to adapt. I’m super appreciative for this experience.”

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