From a secondary teacher to an elementary teacher, I get it

I remember as I went through my education courses there was always the question, do you want to teach young kids or teens? For me the choice was made easier due to my aversion of, um, bodily fluids. Even my own. I never had kids so I did not have to become “accustomed” to various excretions and secretions (or emesis, sorry, TMI?) from someone else’s body as has my once fastidious sister after she had my nephew. I also tend to enjoy joking banter which my elementary counterparts have told me does not always fly well in an elementary class where the students tend to take what you say more seriously. Ending a class in tears is probably not the best pedagogical approach.

Besides, I love teaching physics and spending time with “soon to be” adults as they begin to stretch their wings. Answering questions they have about the big bad world after high school, what to expect of college or what life away from their parents might entail. Watching them evolve into independent thinkers as they begin to analyze and discriminate data and information while wrestling with a particularly complex problem in my classroom. I couldn’t understand why anyone would teach anything other than high school.

hack posterThat was, until I helped out with SYN Shop’s “Hack the City” event this past weekend. This Maker event was planned by Stefania Druga who had many of us “volunteer” our time on very short notice. I have already spoken of the dynamo that is Stefania in my last post. Another person to give props to (okay, do people still use that phrase or am I dating myself) is Tony Hsieh, he of Zappos fame. He has been the driving force of the Downtown Project which has caused some amazing things to come to pass in downtown Las Vegas. It was his invitation to Stefania to visit Las Vegas and check out the Downtown Project that landed her in our fair city.

But back to the main purpose of this blog post. My role for the hackathon was to demonstrate how to get enough electricity out of lemons to provide power for a clock. I admit it was rough going for me at first, explaining oxidation and electrolytes to kids who had yet to discuss electrons in class, but I finally got my footing. And what an amazing experience it turned out to be. The look of wonder, the excitement and enthusiasm, the sheer JOY of learning that I witnessed again and again was electrifying (haha, get it?). I admit I was a little jealous that elementary teachers got to work in this environment on a regular basis. What may have brought a yawn from one of my high schoolers brought gasps and bright-eyed enthusiasm from these little scientists-to-be. Of course I have witnessed the same enthusiasm from my own students, but I had to work a bit harder to light their learning fires.

Would I ever teach elementary students on a regular basis? Probably not, I think they still excrete and secrete. Also, it would have been a little more interesting on my side of things had I been able to help students explore all of the processes going on at the moment. But I definitely can’t wait until the next Maker event and to bask in the glow of that excitement once again.

About Cynthia Clark

I hold a doctorate in curriculum & instruction, with an emphasis in educational technology and science education. I work for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as the Evaluation and Assessment Specialist for the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment. My current research interests include qualitative responses to course evaluations, both the development of open-ended items and their subsequent analysis.
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