Education Students Create Lesson Plans for Auto Museum

English majors pose in the academic quad

Students who visit the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum in Hershey can discover the role chemistry, physics, history, English, and Spanish have played in the automobile industry thanks to a new partnership with Lebanon Valley College.

Five Valley students from the College’s undergraduate education and graduate science education departments developed individual learning units complete with lessons, graphic organizers, quizzes, and other relevant items. These free STEAM-based lesson plans can be used in the classroom by educators anywhere in the world and can be found on the educator resources section of the AACA’s website under Ignition Modules.

The partnership originated through Greg Czarnecki, an adjunct professor in the College’s Master of Science Education Program, and a member of the museum’s education committee. He was searching for ways the museum could become involved with science education.

At the same time, Joe Sandoe M’14, a student in the master’s program, was looking for a thesis topic. 

“I knew this was a great topic for me since there are so many scientific principles at work in an automobile, and because I grew up on a farm and had a lot of mechanical experience with vehicles,” said Sandoe. “This was a great merger of two of my interests.”

A high school chemistry teacher, Sandoe narrowed his focus to the chemistry behind some of the processes that enable a vehicle to function. Since he was the first LVC student to create a lesson, he had to forge his own path for the content, but made sure he focused on concepts that schools were already teaching.

“I decided to create a few lessons that take some of the standards and content and place them in context of the automobile,” Sandoe said. “I took the chemistry principles found in those standards and viewed them through the lens of the automobile.”

The museum enjoyed Sandoe’s lesson so much that they looked for ways to add even more themes and topics. The perfect match was found in an upper-level education course, Practicum and Methods II, which required education majors to create a unit of study as their final project.

Dr. Karen Walker, director of secondary education and associate professor of education, explained that the course includes a practice unit where students receive feedback and can collaborate before taking on their final project. Four secondary education majors in the fall semester chose to create their practice unit on an automobile topic.

Lindsey Wilson ’15 continued the science theme, creating a physics unit that looked at inertia and torque between old and modern vehicles. “It’s primarily for high school students.” Wilson said. “They can measure the diameter of the wheels when they are at the museum, and then they have to design the best wheel and explain why they picked that one.”

Robyn Moore ’15 designed a Spanish unit about cars. It includes car-related vocabulary in Spanish and grammar concepts. “Usually, units in Spanish have their thematic vocabulary and then a few grammar points,” Moore said. “So, I had a wide variety of things to choose from, but eventually chose the [past] tense, pronouns, and comparisons because we were talking about cars from the 1920s and I wanted students to be able to describe the cars, for which they would need demonstrative pronouns and the ability to make comparisons.

“As a foreign language teacher, I have to make the Spanish language authentic, real and usable for my students and I have to give them real ways in which they can use the language in the world outside the classroom,” Moore added. “I relished the chance to develop something for real-world use, rather than just something to hand in to my professor for a grade.”

Erica Laufer ’15 and Nicki Shepski ’15 collaborated on their history and English lessons, choosing 1920s vehicles and the novel The Great Gatsby. 

Laufer’s history lesson requires students to research automobiles and design a newspaper ad for an appropriate vehicle as their final project. “Creating all of these lessons was a unique project because of the interdisciplinary collaboration,” Laufer said. 

“I knew nothing about cars, so I chose to look at symbolism and materialism related to vehicles, particularly those from the book,” said Shepski, whose English unit focuses heavily on writing skills. “It was a great experience to go to the museum and see which vehicle might be Gatsby’s.”

Once the units were complete, museum board members traveled to LVC for a presentation. Members who could not attend in person, participated via conference calls and Skype. 

“I thought that the board members were very respectful and seemed genuinely interested in our work,” Moore said. “They commented on our enthusiasm as we presented, but I also appreciated their reciprocated enthusiasm toward our projects. They seemed very appreciative and asked some excellent questions that we were happy to answer.”

The museum and LVC are enjoying the mutual benefits of a partnership that will continue to grow. Six students in Walker’s spring semester course also created lessons that will be presented to the museum board this fall.

“It's great to see my working be used and serving as a model for future projects,” said Sandoe. “I think the ultimate goal is to help students engage their learning and develop life-long skills. If my work helps move toward that goal by someone developing more projects like it, or someone just using my work in their own classroom, then all of the work I put into creating the lessons is worth it.”