Iowa STEM Blog

Monday, August 8, 2020

By Karla Lopez-Velador, South East Junior High School Science Teacher in Iowa City

As I reflect on my teaching experience in the classroom, although I often planned to prepare the students with the skills that are required for jobs, careers, and the workplace, I didn’t usually explicitly tell the students how or why we had to do things the way we did. Although I often had them work in groups to promote teamwork, structured my weekly lesson plans and due dates to create an opportunity to practice time management, opportunities for organizational and problem solving skills, I didn’t consistently inform them that this is what we were practicing.

A new approach to teaching these skills to them has become apparent during this externship. A project based learning unit can be a great way to allow the class the opportunity and flexibility to discuss these skills, their relevance and application that we practice in the classroom. A great balance between building the skills and teaching students the content and inspiring the love of learning must be purposefully constructed in each of the lessons.

I will definitely never forget this summer.

The opportunity to have an outdoor project helped me appreciate nature and want to do my best to protect natural resources and invest time and resources into preservation. That would be an incredibly beneficial takeaway I would love for my students to obtain from the project.

Although I am pumped and excited to try this project based learning unit with my students, I didn’t address the fear I had to not know the answer to a student’s question during this assignment. In the final video in the Externship wrap up forum, Mike Wedge addressed that very question and through his anecdotal experience. I learned that it is acceptable and key in having students understand that we don’t have everything figured out, and see the importance of their input and work in the world finding out the answers to questions today’s world scientists still have.

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