The origin, growth and decay of living things is the theme for this semester’s After School Science Program, created to provide science field experience for elementary teacher candidates at Fort Hays State University.
“Interacting with students and gaining that real world experience is vital for any teacher candidate,” said Andrea Rackway, Hays special student. “This kind of program provides us with the opportunity to take what we learn in our college classrooms and implement it into the elementary school classroom.”
“Through the After School Science Program, the elementary students have fun through interactive activities while learning valuable lessons in science directly tied to state standards,” said Dr. Amanda Hopkins, assistant professor of teacher education.
The program is five weeks out of each semester and meets after school once a week. Each of the elementary schools hosts the program on a rotating basis. O’Loughlin Elementary School is this semester’s host.
“This is a very good program because this may the only opportunity for many elementary students to get an in-depth look at science,” said Hopkins. “Science is one of the few disciplines that incorporates all of the core subject areas in one -- math, social studies, reading, writing and, of course, science.”
In previous years, about 60 students from kindergarten through fifth grade have participated, but this semester almost 70 students are taking part.
Students are divided into four groups based on grade level, and each group is led by three to four teacher candidates supervised by a licensed instructor.
“The students are amazing and are always very excited to be learning about the life sciences,” said Caysha Johnson, Hays senior. “I love anytime that I can be in the classroom because it helps prepare me for my future as an educator.”
The on-campus science internship is the only internship that allows candidates to teach a whole unit. In the other internships, candidates are only able to teach one lesson from their units, but with the after-school program, the candidates have more opportunities to teach.
“My favorite part about the After School Program is making science fun for the students,” said Malissa Baird, Brewster senior. “With it being an after school program, we are able to take the students outside and make science fun.”
Teacher candidates learn how to meet the needs of all levels of learning from gifted students to special needs students similar to that of a typical classroom.
“This experience is a hands on experience in working with students, accommodating students and dealing with the various aspects of the classroom environment,” said Katelynn Tiemeyer, Great Bend senior. “It created a new learning experience not only for us -- the interns -- but for the students as well.”
“With every experience, we gain better perspective and develop new skills,” said Rackway. “Every opportunity we have to be around children and create that classroom environment is priceless. We learn as they learn.”