Science Education Students Learn By Doing

Science Education students Alex Hong, Holly Mitman, and Corine Mendenhall pose for a photo

Many of us learn best by doing, and maybe nowhere is that truer than in the field of science—and teaching science.

Three students in the College’s Teaching of Science Methods (for secondary education majors) course have gained valuable skills while being exposed to the all-encompassing experiences that classroom teachers can encounter. Jeff Remington, long-time LVC adjunct instructor, guided the students through the course, which was themed around the Danielson Framework—the newest state standard by which all teachers are evaluated.

As Alex Hong ’18, Holly Mitman ’18, and Corine Mendenhall ’18 learned the principals behind the Danielson Framework and quickly turned those lessons into action through a variety of outreach activities, presentations, and observations.

The students twice visited the Annville Library, just across the street from campus, teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities to elementary and middle school students. One activity focused on viscosity by making silly putty. Another activity encouraged the young students to build molecules out of marshmallows and gumdrops. Hong, Mitman, and Mendenhall found that attempting to relate to the children that they were teaching—rather than simply lecturing—was a successful technique that enhanced the children’s overall learning experience. 

“We make it fun by adding in elements that kids love to do, and they don’t even realize that they’re learning,” said Mitman. “Sure, we discussed some of the concepts we were teaching them, but they were doing things with their hands, and seeing how cool science can be.”  

Along with the outreach at the library, the trio of LVC students learned another valuable lesson by presenting at the Pennsylvania State Science Teachers’ Annual Convention at the Penn Stater Conference center in State College, Pa. Each student applied the Danielson Framework for their presentations, which focused on Planning and Preparation, The Classroom Environment, and Instruction.

“This experience gave them in-depth exposure to the Professional Responsibilities domain of Danielson that few pre-service teachers get first-hand exposure to,” added Remington.

By the end of the semester, each of the students felt confident that this class prepared them for the real world and their future career.

“Our science ed. program is designed in a way that allows you to go into any part of the science world,” said Mendenhall, who grew up in a family of teachers and has a father who teaches chemistry. “While I would ideally like to become a teacher, because of the way the program is designed, I will also have the ability to go into industry or research, or apply to different graduate programs in chemistry.” 

She continued, “Our science ed. program also does a great job of getting you out into the classroom right away—first semester freshman year—which means that by the time I graduate, I will have a lot of first-hand classroom experience that I can draw back on during my first few years of teaching.” 

Through their classroom observation logs, course assignments, and all of the external class experiences that the course provided, the three students demonstrated to Remington that they grew and continue to grow in their concept of what it means to be a science educator in the 21st century.  

“It can be overwhelming in scope, but also extremely rewarding,” said Remington. “I told them that science teaching is like learning a new language. Although you can learn a language by taking a weekly class, you don’t get a true understanding of it until you are immersed or embedded in it on location. Although my course was weekly, I aspired to give them the sense of being immersed in what it is like to be a full-fledged science educator.”

If you ask the students, they’ll say Remington’s aspirations became reality.

“All in all, this year has been an amazing learning opportunity for me that I would not trade for anything in the world,” noted Mitman. “The community outreaches, the PSTA conference, and just observing Mr. Remington at Palmyra Middle School has been so incredibly rewarding and beneficial, and it’s in part thanks to LVC, because if I had not chosen to attend here, I never would have had any of these opportunities.”