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Sharing STEM

BSU education majors gain experience while teaching 

Hanscom Air Force Base’s STARBASE Academy has long focused on building children’s confidence in STEM fields. Now Bridgewater State University students are bringing the learning to new heights.

Twenty education majors recently helped teach science, technology, engineering, and math to fifth-grade English learners while improving their own skills as budding teachers.

“I love the hands-on aspects and learning alongside the kids,” said Marissa Exama, ’24, an early childhood education and English major from Gloucester. “I just wanted to step out of my comfort zone.”

The experience, which will involve a second group of students next summer, is funded by a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Students took two free courses about teaching English learners and incorporating STEM topics such as viscosity, force, motion, and coding in lessons. Then they used their new skills during weeklong internships at STARBASE. 

“They’ve blown us away with their enthusiasm and passion for this,” said Dr. Jeanne Carey Ingle, an elementary and early childhood education professor coordinating the program with colleague Nicole Glen.

Students developed and taught lessons using books featuring scientists of color and mentored children during challenges such as building bridges from sticks.

As part of the NSF grant, Ingle and Glen are researching how to prepare future educators to teach STEM to students who are not native English speakers.

“There are a lot of opportunities to do STEM where language doesn’t need to be a barrier,” Dr. Glen said.

In one such activity, children from Boston’s Josiah Quincy Elementary School excitedly watched as a robot they coded drove on an oval track. When it veered off course, BSU students helped the children discover why the robot failed.

“They bring inquisitiveness and energy and I think they bring a fresh perspective,” Dr. Peter Holden, director of STARBASE Academy, said of involving Bridgewater students.

Julia Sullivan, ’23, an elementary education and English major from Cambridge, started with minimal STEM experience. Now she sees it as an integral part of teaching.

“The kids really like it and thrive off learning it,” she said. “I’m learning lots of different strategies.”

Grace Martel, ’23, who is from Uxbridge and aspires to become a reading specialist, said the program prepared her for the diverse students she will serve during her career

“I think it was a really good learning experience,” said Grace, who is majoring in early childhood education and psychology and minoring in special education. “It shows how Bridgewater wants to expose education majors to different experiences we might face in the field.”

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