SMCC students learn science teaching skills

SMCC student Matthew Davis and St. Joseph’s student Bethany Wilson make a presentation at the end of the week-long Teaching Experience Short Course.

Science and math students from SMCC and St. Joseph’s College (SJC) took part in a week-long class to learn how to teach science concepts to middle school students through a new program designed to boost the number of science and math teachers across Maine.

SMCC students Matthew Davis, Fallon Descoteaux, Raymond Kindingili and Melissa Sullivan joined five students from SJC for the Teaching Experience Short Course held August 15-20 at SJC’s campus in Standish. The course was part of the Growing Future STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Teachers in Maine program that is funded by a grant from the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program at the National Science Foundation.

During the week, students heard about teaching practices, tools and lessons for teaching science to middle school students.  They then worked in small groups to create lesson plans such as exploring renewable energy like wind and solar, testing different light conditions and the effectiveness of sunscreen, and comparing climate conditions near a lake and in a meadow.

After working on teaching plans, students spent part of a day practicing their new knowledge and teaching skills with middle school teachers before spending most of the next day with small groups of middle school students, teaching the science concepts in a “STEM Day” event at St. Joseph’s.

“This experience opened my eyes,” said Fallon Descoteaux. “It was amazing to see how smart and excited sixth-grade students are. The STEM teaching short course gives me hope for how our schools can change and offer better education to students. Something that will continue to stick with me is how even after five hours the sixth-grade students still wanted to continue learning instead of going home.”

On the final day of the class, students shared their experiences and reflected on what they learned by presenting posters to each other. The classes were held outdoors under a canopy or in a stone barn with doors open.  Masks and social distancing were observed.

Matthew Davis said he enjoyed being able to create lesson plans and try them out on middle school students.

“I thought the atmosphere was fantastic and provided a great venue for really digging into the science of teaching and STEM concepts,” he said. “As a non-traditional student, this was a valuable resource for bridging my career change into teaching. It gave me experience in a controlled environment that was not overwhelming.”

Professors and guest speakers who took part in the course were SMCC Professor Daniel Moore; SJC Professors Ryan Dorland, Patricia Waters, Emily Lesher, David Pinchbeck and Jim Paruk; Kate Cook of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance; Shari Templeton from the Maine Department of Education; and Anica Miller-Rushing, a Ph.D. student at the University of Maine.