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Student-Led Project Brings Education 'Alive,' Museum To Children

Jan. 14, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Aubrie Walker

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Education majors Chelsea Van Cleave and Madelyn Ingram get into character as scientists, including (right) Hans Lippershey, a German-Dutch spectacle-maker commonly associated with the invention of the telescope. —All photos submitted

 

Entering a room in an area school, you are transported back to the early 17th century, where physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei shows you his newest creation, the telescope he recently built, improving upon the design of the original invention.

You look through the lens of the object and see the stars in the night sky, as Galileo talks about the mysteries of space.

Except it isn’t actually Galileo; it is a Sam Houston State University education major, and you are one of hundreds of elementary school students envisioning the stars as you look through the telescope’s lens at the lights on a Christmas tree.

Dalila Garcia paid homage to former astronaut and current Johnson Space Center director Ellen Ochoa through a presentation on NASA and Ochoa's accomplishments.

The display is one of many that filled schools in Klein, New Waverly, Willis and Conroe school districts at the end of last semester for a project curriculum and instruction majors called the “Live Wax Museum.”

Through the project, SHSU students dressed and acted as different scientists, highlighting their brilliant inventions or findings and allowing the children to interact, talk with and help them make new discoveries.

Earlier in the semester, SHSU’s education majors were challenged by their methods block instructor Tiffany Forester to apply what they had learned with the project-based learning curriculum, as well as give back to the elementary schools they had worked with all semester.

Divided into groups, SHSU students were asked to focus on a theme such as the “accidental scientist,” astronomy/space, inventors and aviation.

Each student selected a scientist, whom they had to research, and came up with an educational way to engage the children in the science scene through their everyday curriculum. There were many avenues to complete this goal, from PowerPoint presentations, to taking questions about their character, to various activities such as putting together a replica of NASA’s spaceships.

“My goal for this project was to get the students we are visiting more interested in science,” said senior elementary education major Amber Ansley. “All of the characters in the wax museum were scientists of some sort, but they all were not necessarily what we think of in the traditional sense of the word ‘scientist.’ For instance, I was Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of chocolate chip cookies. My hope was that the students were able to see that they can be scientists themselves in a variety of ways and become more engaged in science.”

The project was developed and organized by Forester, a lecturer in the curriculum and instruction department, as a means of integrating project-based learning curriculum into her methods classes.

It is one of many of the ongoing programs being implimented by SHSU professors as they receive PBL training, a paradigm that has become so embraced by SHSU's College of Education that they recently developed a Center for Project Based Learning, directed by associate professor of curriculum and instruction Marilyn Rice, that takes curriculum and transforms it into real-life projects.

Rice said project-based learning is a type of teaching that begins with ideas and gives students the opportunity to learn through inquiry and discovery. Activities used are generally collaborative, as student groups move toward a specific learning purpose.

“The SHSU Center for Project Based Learning is a very unique entity,” Rice said. “Its mission is to provide leadership, training, and support to researchers and practitioners in the implementation of project-based learning within the university as well as its partnership school districts.

“PBL’s methodology requires students to respond to a question, problem or challenge by executing a project which is stimulated by a driving, open-ended question.”

Martin Cooper display
Learning and chocolate: Presentations were made on such figures as Martin Cooper, considered the pioneer of the wireless communications industry, (above) and candy maker Milton Hershey, founder of The Hershey Chocolate Company.
Milton Hershey display

In the “Live Wax Museum” project, students were asked the following open-ended question: "Due to the lack of funding, many school districts do not have funds to take their students on field trips. Therefore, how can we (our methods class and students) take a field trip to the students in the elementary campuses that we are in for field experience?"

Students in the classes deliberated various answers, ultimately deciding to bring the museum to their schools.

The final product, both sets of students agreed, was a great form of learning for SHSU students, who did the research, as well as the elementary students who attended the presentations.

Jordan Doss-Lomas, a senior interdisciplinary studies major who dressed up as Galileo, said the kids absolutely enjoyed the wax museum, especially when he faced a telescope toward a Christmas tree and let the children use their imagination to pretend the lights were stars.

Most of the elementary students didn’t know who Galileo was, which made the experience more memorable for Doss-Lomas and the kids, he said.

“I do believe that my goal was accomplished. The students were engaged and learned new things,” he said. “Most importantly, they wanted to learn more and had the motivation to research on their own.”

Although this was their first time doing this project, other PBL activities have been planned. In May, education students will be responsible for planning an entire day on the SHSU campus for regional fifth graders.

Students and teachers, alike, are excited about this curriculum and where it is going.

“I really admire this type of approach to education because it’s interactive. Students learn best through visual, auditory and kinesthetic approaches, rather than reading and writing,” said Reesa Mosley, a senior interdisciplinary studies major. “I believe this project has positive long-term effects and will leave a great impact to many students.”

 

 

 

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