by Claire Miller
College of Education Clinical Assistant Professor Marion Reeves began the class with a discussion about the phases of the moon and the difference between rotations and revolutions of the Earth and moon.
When she started talking about the four seasons, Reeves asked Ken Terrell, senior lecturer in Georgia State University’s Department of Geosciences, to hold up a large globe and a lamp to physically show the sun and Earth’s positions during each season – a demonstration many elementary school teachers have used to teach this concept.
Then, it was Terrell’s turn to have the floor. He spoke passionately about plate tectonics and seafloor spreading, and how such theories are debated and studied for years before becoming accepted concepts.
Reeves and Terrell seamlessly shifted from one topic to another and were happy to let the other interject as needed. Along with Geosciences Assistant Professor Chis Atcheson and Geosciences Ph.D. student Brian Meyer, they are co-instructors for GSU’s Integrated Sciences (ISCI) courses, science classes specifically designed for GSU freshmen and sophomores who plan on majoring in early childhood education.
ISCI courses are co-taught by College of Education and College of Arts and Sciences faculty and cover life, earth and physical science content while offering lesson plan ideas, class projects and suggestions for how to teach science material to elementary school students.
“College of Education students are able to learn science content in the College of Arts and Sciences and at the same time, think about how to teach these concepts to students,” said Crawford Elliott, chair of the Department of Geosciences. “We are excited about collaborating with the COE to offer these courses.”
In addition to offering courses for early childhood education students, COE Associate Professor Lisa Martin-Hansen and Geosciences Associate Professor Tim La Tour have taught similar integrated science courses to COE students who plan on teaching middle school science. These courses are designed around the notion that middle school teachers choose a concentration, such as science or social studies, and teach that subject all year round to an older group of students – a different mindset from an elementary school teacher, who teaches several subjects during the year to a younger audience.
Whether they’re preparing to be elementary or middle school teachers, students who take ISCI courses not only build a solid foundation of knowledge about several branches of science, but they also have the time to address their concerns about teaching science content before they set foot in the classroom.
“We’re trying to help them overcome their anxieties about the sciences and how to teach them,” Terrell said. “We cover some sophisticated material, but it’s all in how you present it and make it interesting. We work hard to show them that science is fun and if they can learn it, their students will be able to learn it, too.”
Looking forward, ISCI faculty members hope to create a course booklet that details the specific content areas they covered and how they taught them – a resource that will be vital to future faculty members teaching such classes.
They also hope both GSU students and faculty see the benefits of learning science content and teaching practices in the same classroom.
“The knowledge base and the methodologies for teaching it are often separated, but it’s important to know which methods work well for teaching certain concepts,” said Barbara Meyers, chair of the COE’s Department of Early Childhood Education. “To be able to have a handshake across colleges and partner to teach these courses is rather rare, and we feel very privileged to be a part of this collaboration.”
For more information about the Department of Early Childhood Education, visit http://education.gsu.edu/ece/index.htm. For more information about the Department of Geosciences, visit http://geosciences.gsu.edu.