Indiana State students learn by teaching summer experience

September 21, 2012

Indiana State University senior Sara Pfister knew about the great learning opportunity in teaching at an ISU summer science camp long before she ever took advantage of it as a college student.

She attended the camp when she was 6 years old - and she even talked about the experience with her dad, who once was an ISU student teaching at the camp.

Pfister was among the elementary education majors who taught children attending the annual summer science camp at Indiana State. In the camp, which is open to students entering kindergarten through seventh grade, the aspiring educators teach the young pupils a variety of science topics and also lead the students on several field trips. The camp is part of a course the elementary education majors take to provide teaching experience.

"Science is so important ... and it's something that is so often overlooked in our schools because we have so many students we have to teach and there are so many standardized tests we have to teach," Pfister said. "This gives children an opportunity and students like me an opportunity to explore things that we don't get to do in a normal school year."

In the two-week long camp, the ISU students develop the lesson plans before teaching them to the students. The classes feature "inquiry-based lessons" and hands-on activities to help the children learn the curriculum, said Eulsun Seung, assistant professor for science education and chemistry at ISU and director of the camp.

"The context of the camp is a little different from a regular classroom, because the children in the camp are very knowledgeable and interested in science, which encourages ISU students to have motivation and confidence in teaching science," Seung said.

For ISU senior Katelynn Moats, the chance to teach kids in the kindergarten to second grade age group gave her some insights as she prepared to start student teaching.

"I heard from other students who had previously taken the course, and they highly recommended it and said how much they enjoyed working with the students in a camp atmosphere," said Moats, who is from Terre Haute.

The ISU students taught the camp during the day, and after the sessions, they met to discuss their experiences.

"We're with the kids for 10 days for the total camp, and having that time is essential," Moats said. "I'm really learning how to teach science, and how to make it fun, and to meet every individual's needs in the classroom."

The camp attendees were divided into three different age groups: kindergarten through second grade, third and fourth grade, and fifth through seventh grade. Each class had age-specific projects and activities; on the camp's final day, for instance, the oldest class presented their group science projects, while another group launched rockets outside to watch how each one soared into the air before a parachute opened to help it glide safely (usually) to the ground.

"Being able to learn the theory of teaching science and actually teaching science are two completely different ballgames," said Pfister, who is from Terre Haute. "Being able to know how important ... it is to be inquiry-based and having students creating information as students rather than being given information by a teacher, they will remember that, and they will be using that as their education progresses."

The summer science camp first started in the 1970s, and has since "become part of the community," Seung said. While the camp costs $100 per student, the cost does not cover the full amount of the camp, which is also partially funded by the ISU Center for Community Engagement.

Some of the young camp attendees enjoyed the experience. For Jack McClelland, the camp provided an opportunity to learn about science while spending time with some of his friends from school who were also in the camp.

"We did a lot of stuff," Jack said. "I really liked the field trips that we had."

During the two-week experience, the campers took four field trips, included stops to the Indianapolis Children's Museum and the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. While Jack McClelland enjoyed a field trip to a cavern as his favorite, his brother Dane McClelland enjoyed the trek to the Indianapolis museum the most.

"I came here last year, and I thought it was so much fun that I would like to do it again," Dane said of the camp. "The people were fun, and we did a lot of cool stuff."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Summer-Science-Camp/i-34kjPdw/0/L/080912sciencecamp-9173-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)An Indiana State University student works with participants in the summer science camp at ISU. In the camp, college students majoring in elementary education teach the camp attendees, who range in age from kindergarten to going into seventh grade.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Summer-Science-Camp/i-vd22NsD/0/L/080912sciencecamp-9251-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)Summer science camp participate Jack McClelland receives advice from one of the Indiana State University elementary education students teaching in the camp.

Contact: Eulsun Seung, assistant professor, science education and chemistry, Indiana State University, 812-237-7727 or eulsun.seung@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu