The dictionary defines "Beauty" as the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.
Inspired by an article in a professional magazine, I had the opportunity to work with a dynamic first grade teacher, Connie Parsons, in establishing a course we called Learn Science. My seventh and eighth grade students who elected to join the course were given the opportunity to prepare lessons that they could teach to the first grade students using a "Hands-on" approach. In this way, students were able to experience science and learn by doing.
On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday my middle school students planned, prepared, and practiced the science lessons and demonstratons that they would teach on Thursdays during a double period block of 90 minutes. The earlier week classes were 45 minutes each. The students were always excited to work together.
Teach Science used the first grade science cirriculum developed by the Utah State Office of Education, and incorporated intended learning outcomes from the secondary science core curriculum and Provo School District Standards and Benchmarks aligned to both the state and national standards.
The course was designed to empower students to empower students--teaching students to teach other students. Middle school students were given real responsibility, opportunity to learn and practice teaching skills, and be a role model for a younger student. Both the mentor and the younger students found science relevant.
One of the most beautiful activities occurred in the fall of the year involving the same group of first grade students with a different group of middle school students each semester. Everyone involved, although it was a great deal of work for everyone, saw the activity as a thing of beauty--it gave pleasure to everyone involved and exhalted the mind and spirit. It was that of planting tulips in a garden the custodian had prepared at the elementary school.
Working Together Is The Whole Idea.
Our Thursdays were very exciting for the middle school students, for they were able to see the benefits of their preparation. It was a fun day for the elementary students who didn't realize that the work that they were doing was teaching them to read, write, and calculate better and they always looked forward to it. The looks on the faces of the students were always the reward for Connie and me as the students learned new and exciting things they had never before experienced.
Our unit on air was especially exciting for all of us. The beauty of it was that the work that went into it was a benefit to all. The middle school students were just as excited as the grade schoolers.
We placed a set-up folding table on the floor. Then the students positioned themselves around all four sides of the table. Large plastic garbage bags were then placed on the top of the table so that the openings were facing the outside of the edge of the table with sufficient space to have students get hold of each bag and blow into it.
Then another folding table was placed face-down (still folded) on top of the garbage bags. We asked the students if they blew into the bags if they thought that the air in the bags would lift the table. Many of the grade schoolers didn't think so.
Then we asked for volunteers, and three or four of the grade school students were chosen to sit on the folded table resting on the garbage bags. When asked again if they thought they could lift the table and students, most of the grade schoolers and a few of the middle school students didn't think so!
Everyone, with a few spotters around the tables, then blew into the bags and held them tightly as we took turns having them blow--rest. blow--rest. blow--rest. Soon the table and the students on the table were being lifted by the air inside the garbage bags. It was great work on the part of the blowers, and it was fun--and it was a beautiful thing!
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is the one-on-one attention, making sure everyone "gets it." Another Beauty of the lesson is that everyone could take it home!
After cleaning up, students were excited to see me sit on a garbage bag that had been filled with air to demonstrate the property of air they had just experienced with the table demonstration. It was a great discussion, and one that the students wouldn't likely soon forget. They learned how air can support things and a number of other concepts they could apply to their own experience. The work put into the experience and the lesson learned was, indeed, a thing of beauty!
Simple science, or everyday science, has always appealed to me. And good teachers can seem to work miracles. Thanks for the story, Golden.