Local teachers learn science methods first-hand

Story and photos
by Peggy Hoffman-Schmidt
Kaiserslautern District

***image1***Can an inflated balloon power a car? How far can a car go with one push when on a table as compared to on a carpet? How long can a top spin when it is on a table top as compared to when it is on the carpet?

These were some of the experiments Kaiserslautern District Sure Start and kindergarten teachers worked with to design lessons as a part of new Department of Defense Education Activity science implementation and training standards.

“This is interesting and fun for the adults, and I can just see my students loving this type of activity,” said Jennifer Lussier, Sembach Elementary School kindergarten teacher.

“I am excited that we have these new standards and the materials we will need to make science come alive for our children,” said Suzi Johnston, Landstuhl Elementary and Middle School kindergarten teacher.

“And what is really nice is that by having students experiment, talk about their experiments, share their findings with the class, and then write about their findings, we are also teaching students how to express themselves using the language arts skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing,” said Cindy Van De Linde, Vogelweh Elementary School kindergarten teacher.

Instead of solely reading information from a book or listening to a teacher explain facts or lecture, learning scientific principles by doing is the basis of the process standards of the new DODEA curriculum plan.

The science standards are divided into two sections: content – the topics and areas that students must learn about; and process – the interactive inquiry methods for teaching.

Three hundred fifty pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade teachers, 41 middle school teachers and 35 high school teachers in the Kaiserslautern District, and many more DODEA-wide, will experience training of the new science standards and science materials this year. Training is planned so teachers and students similarly experience the inquiry method.

Carol Fears, Kaiserslautern District Science Liaison, recently conducted district training – beginning with Sure Start and Kindergarten teachers.

When adults think back to their school experience, they do not remember their favorite lecture in detail or the best chapter they read in the science book, said Ms. Fears. However, they do remember dissecting the fetal pig and seeing what a heart really looks like or going to see Verdun in addition to learning facts about World War I.

“Brain research coupled with the research on best practices of how students learn underscores the benefits of teaching science using the inquiry method,” Ms. Fears said. “The emphasis is on both the content standards and the process skills. Emphasis is being placed on interactive learning so that students can construct meaning. That’s science.”