Graduate Students Enhance Science Education in Local Elementary Schools

Selected University of Idaho graduate students studying science teach local elementary school kids as part of the National Science Foundation GK12 STEPS program (Scientists and Teachers Educating and Preparing Students). The overall goal of this program is to improve the communication skills and teaching ability of graduate students in the sciences, mathematics and engineering.

The program also strives to enhance the teaching of the physical sciences and life and earth sciences being taught in rural elementary schools in North Idaho. For Jacob Turner, physics graduate student, the program is a great way to keep things in perspective and to remember what got him so excited about science in the first place.

“The kids I teach at Juliaetta Elementary School in the 4th, 5th and 6th grade are really eager to learn, which is great to see.” said Turner. “It makes me feel like there’s a resurgence of science and curiosity in our schools, especially in the physical sciences, because kids can roll up their sleeves, get in there and see how things work.”

As a fellow in this program, Turner collaborates with his University adviser and elementary teachers to develop lessons that follow state science content standards. He also creates lesson plans, prepares class materials, conducts class demonstrations and interacts with students, reflecting on each lesson and assigning and collecting various worksheets and homework. For example, one of his lessons is focused on the concepts of mechanical advantage, work and energy. Through demonstrations and using common tools and equipment, the students worked in groups and explored how to set up pulley systems with the spring scales. They also learned how to classify levers that exist in the student's body.

In another lesson, he introduced the concept of electric charge using red and green transparent cellophane, setting up a number of stations for students to explore the phenomenon of static electricity and current electricity.

Jacob Turner, graduate student studying physics, and other graduate students. David McIlroy, Department of Physics, and Program Manager Paul Allan, also with the Department of Physics.

University of Idaho NSF – GK12 STEPS Program

Particpants in the steps project are making a tremendous difference in local idaho elementry schools? they are getting the next generation hooked on science!