With the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, teacher candidates at Fort Hays State University will benefit from several changes in the area of science education. This semester, 18 teacher candidates are in the science methods course.
"The NGSS expect more from students through active involvement and exploration," said Megan Hake, Tipton senior. "It's beneficial to learn them now because we have other instructors and peers to collaborate with."
"They are in depth and intense," said Kelsey Schowengendt-Marquez, Dodge City senior. "I think teachers will have more fun teaching science because it is more hands-on oriented. It is different because we don't have to change how we are doing things because it is all new to us."
NGSS is a new set of voluntary, rigorous and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education. Kansas is one of seven states that adopted these new standards and was a lead state for the developing them. In June 2013, Kansas adopted the NGSS as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards for Science.
"The Next Generation Science Standards engage students in hands-on science exploration, student-led investigation and evidence-based data collection," said Stephanie Muth, instructor in teacher education.
Due to the NGSS, Muth said, she had to re-evaluate the way lesson plans were being developed and implemented in her methods course. As of the fall semester, the methods course began using the 5-E Model Lesson Plan. The 5E's represent five stages of a sequence for teaching and learning: engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate.
"This model describes a teaching sequence that can be used for entire programs, specific units and individual lessons," she said.
In conjunction with each methods course, students are required to take a corresponding internship. As a part of the science internship experience, teacher candidates participate in the After School Science Program.
"I have always enjoyed working with students," said Jennifer Kinderknecht, Ellis senior. "This program gives me hands-on experience and provides students with an opportunity to learn more about science."
"It is a way to engage students in learning about different aspects of science," said Allie Blessing, Hutchinson senior. "It is also a way for FHSU future teachers to practice teaching a science lesson and working directly with their own groups of students."
The program, five weeks out of each semester, meets after school once a week. Each of the elementary schools in Hays hosts the program on a rotating basis. Lincoln Elementary School is this semester's host. The primary focus on the semester topic is environmental science.
Students are divided into four developmental groups -- kindergarten, first grade, second and third grade, and fourth and fifth grade. Each group is led by four or five teacher candidates supervised by a licensed instructor.
"The kindergarten group is learning about Kansas tornadoes," said Jessa Stramel, Hays senior. "We plan to teach them about how tornadoes form, what a tornado looks like and various safety precautions to take."
"The first grade is learning about ecosystems, including plant and frog life cycles," said Janae Perkins, Miltonvale senior. "We are planning on using terrariums to show the ecosystem and the life cycles."
"The second and third grade group is learning about the importance of recycling," said Jessica Marston, Great Bend senior. "We have a combination of discussions, cooperative learning activities and art projects that will assist student learning. For my lesson, the students will explore recycling by creating an art piece from recyclable objects."
"We are teaching the fourth and fifth graders about patterns created by plate tectonics," said Shelby Gottschalk, Ellis senior. "We will let them explore maps and images to locate these patterns and understand why they happen."
Several students expressed how this program benefits them in preparing for their future classrooms.
"The program benefits me by getting me prepared to become a teacher," said Mellany Mitchell, Great Bend senior. "We write lesson plans, teach children and it is great to get experience before becoming a real teacher."
"It greatly benefits me because it goes through the planning process and preparation we would have to do as teachers," said Alicia Hammeke, Hays senior. "Any opportunity to actually work with children firsthand is beneficial in our growth as teachers."
Many of the teacher candidates said the program also benefits the students they work with.
"The program is a great way to get students involved in extra learning that they never may get the chance to do in the their classrooms," said Carman Hill, Hoxie senior. "Getting one-on-one attention and learning about a particular subject matter over a period of time is very beneficial to their learning."
"It gives K-5 students the chance to learn more about science," said Megan Wilson, La Crosse senior. "Since teachers are limited on the time they can teach science in the classroom, the program helps to supplement the time lost."
Students in Muth's science methods courses are also benefiting from more hands-on activities that they can incorporate into their future classrooms. At the beginning of the semester, the students attended a planetarium presentation given by Megan Adams, Hays senior. The students were given a demonstration on the set-up, check-out process, and even given a lesson on how to implement into their future classrooms as a part of their Earth and space units. The portable planetarium is available for checkout from FHSU's Department of Geosciences.
"The portable planetarium offers teachers a way to teach Earth and Space Science using a hands-on approach," said Muth. "The planetarium is a unique experience in which every child should have the opportunity to explore."
Through a new partnership with Great Bend Middle School, students were able to observe through a live video feed via Adobe Connect on how the new standards are being implemented in Bobbie Jo Grieb's seventh-grade classroom. Three times throughout the semester, the department's science methods students watch a streaming video of a science lesson designed to meet the NGSS and reflect on the experience.
"By accessing a link, the teacher candidates are able to observe a live science lesson rather than watching a recording," said Muth. "In addition, the candidates are able to ask questions and reflect with middle school students during the lesson. After the conclusion of each lesson, Mrs. Grieb did an amazing job reflecting over the lesson with the candidates, answering their questions, and elaborated on many other aspects of teaching science in today’s classrooms."
"This semester has been awesome for me," said Grieb. "After the three observations and great questions by the students, I can honestly say I have grown as an educator through this experience."
Grieb's students performed an Oreo cookie moon phases lab, a moon crator lab and properties of life lab.
"I was given a professional day to come to campus and meet the young ladies who questioned why I did things, gave me positive feedback and inadvertently challenged me to critically reflect on my teaching practice," said Grieb. "I consider myself a positive, passionate educator who has come to realize I love education. I have been challenged to grow, be even more intentional in my planning, and fan the flame of my own continued education and professional growth."
The students will also participate in a visit to Sternberg Museum of Natural History later in the semester.