NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Around 100 Stephen F. Austin State University preservice teachers helped 900 local fourth graders investigate ecosystems, soil particles and tree functions at the second-annual Wild About Science learning excursion Nov. 5 through 7 at SFA’s Pineywoods Native Plant Center.
The preservice teachers, who are earning degrees through both online completer and face-to-face, campus-based SFA education programs, worked together to show fourth graders how to connect the science they’ve learned in the classroom to real-life situations at the native plant center.
Andrea Garcia, an elementary education senior from Waco, enjoyed seeing the fourth graders’ reactions to the experiments. “This is such a rare opportunity for us to work with students outside the classroom.”
Preservice teachers co-taught in groups to develop their collaborative skills and flexibility. For preservice teachers taking courses online as part of completer programs, Wild About Science also offered a chance to work with classmates in person and feel more included.
“We got to build connections and network, co-teach and teach outdoors,” said Chelsie Wilson, a senior from Baytown who is completing a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with an early childhood through sixth grade certification online. “This opportunity gave us a chance to observe each other and understand our strengths and weaknesses. It also gave us a sense of real inclusion.”
Wild About Science is one of eight grade-level-specific learning excursions hosted by SFA Gardens staff during the year. This particular fourth-grade excursion was a collaboration between the SFA Gardens staff, SFA’s Department of Elementary Education, the Texas A&M Forest Service and Texas Project Learning Tree. Based on environmental education curriculum designed by Project Learning Tree, Wild About Science features stations where fourth graders create a food web; observe and collect data from soil particles; and learn about the structure, function and adaptations of trees.
“These science lessons align to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills state standards,” said Dr. Paula Griffin, associate professor in the Department of Elementary Education and one of the faculty advisors for Wild About Science. “Fourth graders who attend the event have the opportunity to make authentic scientific connections while learning in the outdoor classroom.”
Students from Carpenter, Fredonia and Raguet elementary schools; Christ Episcopal School; Regents Academy; and SFA Charter School in Nacogdoches participated in the event. Wild About Science also hosted fourth graders from Chapel Hill, Cushing, Garrison and Woden.
For more information on these learning excursions, contact Elyce Rodewald, SFA Gardens education coordinator, at (936) 468-1832 or firstname.lastname@example.org.