Most of us learn best by doing. The same is true for Mary Hatton, adjunct professor, and the students of her service learning course.
Keeping this in mind, Hatton designed and launched STEAM Days, a collaboration between Endicott education students and Beverly’s Cove Elementary School. STEAM education is an integrated approach to learning and refers to the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. With new science standards being implemented, Hatton’s students worked closely with the STEAM integration specialist at Cove Elementary School, Kasey Henderson, to learn strategies, create lessons, and ultimately implement them in the classroom themselves. Henderson says, “STEAM days are a great way to bring science to life and help students come to the realization that science is all around us.”
“They are most going to learn and understand how things work in the classroom by being out there, seeing and doing things actively,” says Hatton. This service learning course, new this year, included a class meeting once a week and a visit to Cove Elementary School once a week providing on-the-ground learning and a unique responsive class structure.
This initiative, which included collaboration from early childhood methods and science methods students and faculty, culminated with a final lesson, given by Endicott students, on designated STEAM Days. There was a total of 27 students who helped run the event. The class, as Hatton says, is “not a typical class.” She explains that, “things are happening in the school that dictate what they [our students] need to do.”
This responsive nature of the course mimics the reality of teaching. And for the students participating, that’s been refreshing.
“I think that what we did is not something that you get the opportunity to do, which is creating from scratch an entire unit and implementing it in a classroom,” says student Gayle Robbins ’19, “I think that’s very rare to come across.” She says that being able to build lessons at Endicott, take them to a real-life classroom, work with actual students, and apply the strategies in real time made everything really come to life.
Maggie Boyce ’19, a junior, says that being in the classroom and teaching her own lessons has been such a huge bonus. She says, “Now that I’m preparing for a full semester of teaching I just feel like I have a leg up.”
Robbins agrees, saying that, “We are creating the curriculum and implementing it.”
Robert Ackerman ’20, a sophomore in the class, says, “The key word is experience. We’re actually doing it.”
Boyce says, “It helps to have a lecture and learn about strategies to use in the classroom and then go into the classroom, see teachers using these strategies, and be able to use these strategies ourselves. It makes it more real,” she says, “this is real work.”
Theresa Keenan ’19, also in the course, explains how valuable whole-instruction experience is for teachers. She says, “A really hard part about education is that you can have an amazing lesson and you can have it all planned out and have all these amazing materials but if you can’t get the class to listen and keep them interested at all then it’s extremely difficult.” She says, “It’s good to practice, especially with multiple groups of students, and use different strategies.”
The projects the students created included a lesson on geometric shapes where kindergarteners experimented with building their own city scape, a lesson on light that culminated with students making their own kaleidoscopes, and a lesson on landforms which included a walking field trip to Brackenbury Beach capturing drone imagery to use to create a map of the watershed.
Robbins says this course is more than just an amazing collaboration between Endicott and local schools, it’s also an opportunity to grow your network. “Not only are we representing Endicott in the community, so they’re getting to see what this school is doing for the surrounding area, but also the personal connections we are making are valuable too.”
Keenan adds, “We’ve been in a lot of classrooms and have built relationships with people we can use as resources in the future.”
In addition to education students’ placements, which are built into Endicott’s curriculum, this course gives students added opportunity to get experience in the classroom. Boyce says, “By now I’ve been in the classroom here at Endicott seven or eight times, that’s a lot.”
Robbins adds, “One of the main reasons why I wanted to come to Endicott was because of the program and how often you’re in the schools. And that it starts freshman year with internship and continues every year until you graduate. You just gain so much experience.”