I have the opportunity to offer science support to the elementary teachers at our school. This has proven to be one of the most enjoyable things I have done. First of all the elementary teachers I work with are amazing and they are so incredibly open to new ideas and to improving the learning experiences in their classroom so it is an absolute joy to work with them. Second of all, those little elementary students are just so cute!
Just picture a third grade class. The classroom is warm and inviting with an appropriate amount of student work and teacher scaffolding hanging all around the room leaving one with a sense of the great activity that happens there without overwhelming or cluttering the space. True to form, when I walk in, the students simmer with excitement. It doesn’t matter what I bring, it can be beakers and water, they greet me with eager anticipation. The teacher has prepped them and they clearly cannot wait any longer for my arrival. There is something about a guest from “the upper school” and when she brings cool and interesting things it’s just over the top fun.
They seat themselves on a colorful rug in a circle around the portable white board. I launch into a discussion of Newton’s laws with pictures and diagrams. They soak it all in. Then I explain that we will be conducting our own set of experiments to determine whether we can observe these laws ourselves. They almost can’t contain their enthusiasm as I set out plastic cups, a notecard, and a coin for each of them. We place the card on the cup with the coin on top of the card, preparing for an example of the Law of Inertia. I ask them to hypothesize what will happen when they quickly pull away the card. They can process that, according to the law we just discussed, the coin should fall into the cup but they can’t quite make themselves believe it. So, they carry out the experiment. Almost immediately one boy, with all the energy his little body could possibly hold, leaps to his feet in complete wonderment and exclaims, “So Newton was right!”
I love those little ones and they inspire me as I head back up to my classroom in the upper school. I know there is a way to ignite similar, albeit it differently expressed, enthusiasm in my seniors.