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Service-Learning and Science Collide in East Rochester Schools

12/04/2013


Service-Learning and Science Collide in East Rochester Schools

Fisher students have taken service-learning just down the road to two East Rochester schools to bring science programs to in-school and after-school programs. Over 40 Fisher students in two classes brought science research and enrichment to students in the district.

Adjunct Associate Professor and Health Professions Advisor Ginny Maier’s course, Biology and Society/Science for Life, created science experiments for 24 East Rochester Elementary 5th graders. Maier said their objective was not only to provide a science-enrichment activity, but also to give them a view into “life as a college student.”

The Fisher students visited the class five times, and the 5th graders had an opportunity to come to campus for one class. During their meetings, teams of East Rochester students and Fisher students devised experiments to test hypotheses about some simple observations, collected data, processed and discussed their results, and prepared the whole package for a poster session. Results will be presented at a science fair on December 5.

“The coursework allowed the students to implement some of the ideas they had learned in class about experimental design and quantitative reasoning, but they also had a chance to be leaders and teachers, which I think was a good growth experience for them,” said Maier.

Mark Denecke, 5th grade teacher at East Rochester Elementary, said that partnering with the class was a great benefit to his students.

“Beyond the expected benefits of a college mentor, our students were engaged in the process of hands-on, inquiry science, something that can get easily lost with the narrow focus on ELA and Math testing.  More importantly, our students had the opportunity to experience a college class and tour campus and get a glimpse of what they can achieve as they prepare for middle and high school,” he added. 

Dr. Kermin Martinez-Hernandez, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, took students in his Biochemical Systems course to East Rochester Middle School to develop a series of project-based learning (PBL) projects between the middle school students and pre-service teachers at Fisher. The class partnered with the Helping Youth through Preventive Education (HYPE) program, which is a joint effort between the East Rochester School District and the Southeast YMCA.  The program encourages students in Grades 4-6 to be more successful in their schoolwork.  In addition, trained, experienced, and Board of Education approved high school tutors in Grades 9-12 work with the students on an individual or small group basis.

Martinez-Hernandez said normally, PBL has been implemented successfully in a single classroom with a group of students. But, for this course, he added another layer to that by exposing pre-service teachers to work in conjunction with 4th-6th grade students in their PBL.

“My first goal was to provide an early exposure to pre-service teachers to work directly with middle school students in an authentic setting. The second goal was to provide East Rochester students participating in an after-school program with an opportunity to learn how to do research of their own interest using PBL in conjunction with Fisher students,” he said.

In the end, a total of nine projects were conducted between 17 Fisher students and 35 East Rochester students. Some of the projects included:

  • “How can we save money and preserve the environment when heating/cooling our homes?” (Jacob Quattrini)
  • “What is the water-cycle and what are the effects of pollution on living organisms in the environment?” (Courtney Kelly and Jayna Betancourt)
  • “What type of fuel does a space shuttle use?” (Michaella Pilla and Samantha Poules)
  • “How does acid rain affect the water cycle, the environment and you?” (Mariah Strife and Kelly Joy)
  • “What would happen to the environment if the owl was not able to get its food?” (Emily Johnson and Kari Dear)

Jayna Betancourt, whose project title was, “What is the water-cycle and what are the effects of pollution on living organisms in the environment,” called the experience “eye-opening.”

“It was a very invigorating experience for me being able to work with students to continue their knowledge about topics that they had an interest in like pollution in the water cycle. The students were able to relate a real-life problem to their own life, something that they haven't had the opportunity to do before,” she said.

Courtney Kelley, an education major in her sophomore year who admits science has never been her strong suit, said that the experience was life-changing for her.

“By helping the children, it in turn helped me because they taught me to flexible, and most important, patient. I would not trade a single day of working with them for another day in the classroom, and I would not have gotten as much out of the course without this project,” she said.

On the last day, the program held a "HYPE Science Night" where the East Rochester and Fisher students presented their science projects to faculty, staff, and classmates. 

“The students learned a lot of valuable information and form positive relationships with each other.  This collaboration was a great benefit to all involved,” said Adam Laycock, School Counselor, East Rochester Middle School.


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