Leah Morse


Final Report - E.E.K. Internship

Objectives:

I approached this internship with several objectives. I wanted to become more proficient at curriculum/ lesson plan development. Prior to my involvement with E.E.K., I had developed curricula, but not curricula involving environmental information. I had never taught kids true science, and wanted to become more skilled at this. Also, I wanted to gain experience with group work, specifically, team teaching, which I had never done.

Goals for the Class:

Laura Davis (my partner) and I wanted to help our class see connections within the environment as well as connections linking human actions to environmental consequences. In order to better illustrate these connections, we created a large model ecosystem out of felt and tied our lesson plans to it in order to visually demonstrate connections (such as cutting down trees hurts the soil, which hurts the water). In order to show the children tangible and relatively simple ways to protect the environment, we emphasized “reducing, reusing, and recycling” and tied these ideas back to the felt ecosystem (for example: if we waste paper instead of reusing it, more trees will be cut down, which means habitat loss for animals, etc.).

Classroom Sessions:

Personal Reflections:

This experience has been valuable. The collaboration between Laura and I has made what we bring to the classroom stronger. I have gained much insight into effective development of scientific curricula by viewing numerous previously created E.E.K. lesson plans. Laura and I initially created our own lesson plans, but began to use some written by other E.E.K. members, adapting them to fit our class’ needs. Through these lesson plans, we were able to realize our goal of teaching the children about the many important connections in the environment.

I feel that working with this class has taught me a lot about how best to reach children. This class (Sarah Van Donge’s third grade class, Sharpstein Elementary) is bilingual, so we had to learn how to best explain complicated ideas (such as the water cycle) while using vocabulary the kids had never before encountered. I have learned to be patient, to make comparisons between complicated, abstract ideas and things third graders are very familiar with, and to use pictures and physical movement to express ideas.

Successfulness:

I feel that we successfully taught the children much about the environment and how to best safeguard it. The class originally knew very little about environmental concepts; by the last class, they knew about ecosystems, the water cycle, renewable energy, recycling plants, solar panels, dams, components and processes (i.e. respiration) of trees, and more. Hopefully, these children will spread this knowledge through their words and actions, educating others about the importance of environmental protection and conservation. Tomorrow, we go into the classroom for the last time, and we plan to emphasize how important it is for the children to spread the information they have learned to others.

Difficulties:

Sometimes, we had difficulty holding the kids’ attention, especially after our “newness” wore off and they were used to our presence. Laying down a minimal number of simple ground rules, such as “no talking unless your hand is raised and we call on you,” helped us maintain order. Also helpful was incorporating activities that allowed the kids to get up and move around, which let them burn off energy.

Also, we came to the classroom one Wednesday (we taught Wednesdays from 1:15-2:15), and the class was gone. Washington third graders apparently attend mandatory swimming lessons; the kids had gone to the YMCA. Sarah had no way of contacting us to tell us, and as a result, we lost two class sessions, which could have possibly been rescheduled if we had known in advance about the swimming lessons. Communication between E.E.K. interns and the teacher of their class is key.

Sessions:

1. Wed, Feb. 20: Visited class.
2. Wed, Feb. 27: Introduced concept of the environment and ecosystems, and connections within, using felt board.
3. Wed, March 6: Talked about reusing: made journals from cardboard and scrap paper.
4. Wed, March 13: Spring Break (Whitman)
5. Wed, March 20: Spring Break (Whitman)
6. Wed, March 27: The three “Rs.”
7. Wed, April 3: Spring Break (Sharpstein)
8. Wed, April 10 and Wed, April 17: missed due to swimming lessons.
9. Wed, April 24: Water cycle
10. Wed, May 1: Renewable energy
11. Wed, May 8: Wrap up, conclusion.

Recommendations:

Well defined lesson plans are essential for success. If teachers know exactly what to cover, they can focus on presenting information enthusiastically and creatively, as opposed to focusing on what to say next. The class will run more smoothly and the kids will be faced with clear, understandable information.

Finding a teacher who wanted us to work with their students took a few weeks, during which we couldn’t really work. After we made an arrangement, we went into the classroom to get a feel for things, which took an hour. This was very helpful, and is recommended for all future E.E.K. interns. We were able to meet the teacher and watch her interact with the kids, which showed us which teaching styles they respond to. Sarah was also able to provide us with information about the kids’ personalities and prior exposure to environmental education. We were able to meet the kids, and get a feel for the space we had to work with.

Actual time commitment has been about two to three hours a week, which includes planning, teaching, and transportation. Sharpstein Elementary is within blocks of Whitman, so transportation is not an ordeal. Getting started quickly on E.E. K. internships, in order to ensure that substantial time can be spent in the classroom, is recommended. Contact as many elementary schools as possible in order to find a teacher whose classroom in which you can teach.

As far as recommendations for specific activities, allowing for activities that encourage participation is crucial to keeping the kids interested in what you are teaching them. Art projects (we helped them make journals out of old cardboard and scrap paper) were a big hit with our kids. Finally, we wish we had taken the children outside to show them concrete examples of things discussed in the classroom. Short field trips are a recommended teaching method.

Contacts:

E.E.K:

Margo Burton 527-1169 burtonma@whitman.edu
Anna Taft 525-4481 taftan@whitman.edu

Area elementary schools:

Sharpstein 527-3098
Berney 527-3060
Green Park 527-3077
Edison 527-3072