For my second journal entry, I want to discuss specific lessons that I have observed in the classroom. I enjoy the math and science lessons the most, and because my teacher specializes in science and is very passionate about it, those lessons are so fun to be a part of. I am lucky that I am there on Wednesdays and get to observe science, because it is not a subject that the students have every day. They have science only twice a week, geography once a week, and current events once a week. They have math and language arts every day, and a variety of "specials" like music, art, and PE. My teacher is frustrated by this because she thinks that science should have more lessons per week than art or music class, instead science and music are taught the same amount of time every week. I have to agree. In American schools, they usually have the different arts once a week and the educational subjects every day. I am shocked that the students only have science twice a week, and I'm sure they would like to have it more because they absolutely love the interactive lessons.
For the past few months the subject has been electricity. The students all do experiments with circuit boards that have the ability to make electric charges. They usually work in groups and have to figure out how to make a lightbulb light up, a top spin, or use the batteries and wires in some other way. They absolutely love experimenting, and seeing when a student makes a discovery is so incredible to watch. For example, last week they were using two batteries and metal wires to make a closed circuit and light a lightbulb. One group could not figure out why their lightbulb wasn't working. Finally a student realized that they needed the batteries to face opposite directions so the positive and negative sides were back to back. When she finally discovered this, switched the battery and saw the lightbulb light, she was ecstatic! The students have a ton of freedom when doing science, so they all have different results and are able to make comparisons, predictions and conclusions.
This week the class made electromagnets for the first time. My cooperating teacher did a demonstration "fishbowl" where she sat at a table to demonstrate while the rest of the students crowded around (surprisingly there are very few problems with crowding around and being able to see during fishbowls!). She showed the students how they would make a circuit, some groups with one battery and some with two, and connect one wire to make an electromagnet by wrapping it around the body of the cylindric magnet. With that, she sent the groups off. They all worked well and all had a working electromagnet. We then "fishbowled" around each table while each group demonstrated. One group was able to pick up three washers, while the last group picked up over 20! With these observations, the excited students drew conclusions on why one worked so much better (the wire was wrapped tighter, more times around, closer to the head of the magnet, etc.) They then went back to their original groups and remade their electromagnets. By the end, all the groups were picking up 20s and 30s of washers.
The students really benefitted from this hands on experience, and talking to the students after, I found that they really loved science time. They said this is the first year at school where they have so much hands on experimenting, which they love. It is incredible to see how mature some of their responses are when they come back as a class, after small group work, to reflect and make conclusions. The intellectual level of some of the comments prove that this hands on work is irreplaceable, and really effective at teaching concepts properly. The only problems I observed during this group work were lack of materials available to the shyer students, who were unable to get into the group and participate as much as the more rambunctious group members. However, my cooperating teacher and I push the students to work together, and she occasionally splits a group into two even smaller groups so students can work more evenly with the materials. This solves the problem, and the students, whether they are the ones who actually wrap the wire around the magnet or not, are able to see and discover why their experiments work.
Science is my favorite part of the day because we have incredible lessons designed by my cooperating teacher. Not only the lessons make the period fun, but the excitement and passion shown from my cooperating teacher and the students are also great to see. I know there are students who look forward to only science class out of the whole day of academic periods, and though it isn't great, it's a start. It is such a great thing to see certain students interested and passionate when you don't usually see them feeling that way in an educational setting. I love, love the hands on work that we do in science, and I know it is highly beneficial to the students.