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Williams sophomore Darla Torres and freshman Valeria Sosa-Garnica talk to Greylock third-graders about the rainforest.
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Grant Helps College Students Bring Science to Kids

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The college students are teaching the kids, but in the end, the kids end up teaching their teachers, too.

Entering the third year of a four-year grant, undergraduates from MCLA and Williams College have worked with both elementary teachers and college science professors to develop inquiry-based units of instruction based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in a program called “Teaching to Learn.” They then implemented their programs with students in Brayton, Colegrove and Greylock schools - and then made tweaks as they learned from the kindergarten through sixth-graders what works.

This past spring, Williams sophomore Darla Torres and freshman Valeria Sosa-Garnica worked with Greylock third-graders on exploring subjects like the rainforest, the deer population and why birds have the beaks that they do.

“They get some hands-on science activities,” said third-grade teacher Melissa Boyer. “They are questioning. There’s a lot of inquiry that goes with that programming.

“(The college students) provide us with the material that we wouldn’t normally get.”

Torres actually worked on developing the curriculum last summer that was implemented this past spring and thus was able to see her work in action.

“It’s been wonderful,” she said after leading a discussion of the rainforest after reading the a classroom “The Great Kapok Tree” back in May and assigning each student an animal to research. “They’re so receptive of what we’re telling them. They retain a lot of it.”

One of the more popular lessons involved going outside to look at the effects human decisions have on the deer population. It gave the kids a chance to run around while learning, Torres said.

“They really like it. It’s really gets the message across,” she said.

Lindley Wells, who supervised the students through her role in the Center for Learning at Williams College, said she will be looking for ways to extend the program after the fourth year of the grant because it has been so well-received.

“Overall, it’s been pretty positive,” said Wells, who said grades have been added throughout the life of the grant so that the curriculum now covers kindergarten through sixth grade, with the college students meeting with the teachers to go over the lessons. 

“Teachers give a lot of feedback about curriculum,” she said,

Every class that participates has two students who go through an application process and get paid a stipend for participating, Wells said. This past spring, 21 students worked with 11 classes.

In Rebecca George’s third-grade class, those two students were Williams senior Greg Ferland and junior Jacqueline Serrano, who were wrapping up their time with the class with the rainforest section in May - much to the dismay of the students.

“Nooooo,” moaned one students when Ferland said it was their last week in the classroom. “I’ve had so much fun.”

Ferland said he had fun, too, while helping the kids learn about science in a hands-on way.

“The kids benefit from having someone new in the classroom,” he said. “I’ve already seen them learn a lot.”

Tags: MCLA,   science,   Williams College,   

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