Last school year at the SRSS, I was involved in a science club with grade 11 and 12 students that became known as Explore Science. The club’s goals were simple – expand science interest in early years by conducting hands-on, engaging science activities with a group of early years learners. The content that students used was open ended. There were some chemistry activities; mostly of the household chemistry type. One day, we built newspaper towers and had a paper airplane flying contest. The SRSS students did all the work and really took ownership of the club. They planned, prepared and conducted all the sessions with the elementary learners at both Southwood and Woodlawn. We met with the students a total of four times after school and it was definitely a success!
At the beginning of this year, I shared my experiences with my own chemistry students. As part of Innovation Week, we discussed connecting with Southwood School to do some hands-on science again. So we did! My students were responsible for planning, preparing and conducting demonstrations and/or hands-on experiments in a safe manner. All told, my classes spent 4 afternoons at Southwood. It was awesome!
The learning and fun did not only happen for the grade 1 learners. Many of the “6Cs” were involved in making this day a success. Obviously, community was a large focus of this activity. My students were asked to collaborate in small groups, create demonstrations or 5 minute activities to conduct. Their task was to take a concept from chemistry and communicate it to the grade 1 learners “at their level.” This was no easy task, but it was well worth it!
Upon further reflection, I’ve come to appreciate the value of connecting my high school students with early years learners. Most definitely I will be doing an activity like this again. My students took ownership of the day. They felt the “pressure” of being in charge of the learning of others. At the end of the day I had a group remark that they were “just exhausted from teaching.” Go figure!
I will admit that I can struggle with being “hands-off” with an activity. Most teachers feel this way, I suspect. We work hard to plan our classes to be just so. Let the students plan the activity? Am I sure about this? But I went somewhat out of my comfort zone and I do not regret it. These days were successful because I let my students just do what they needed to do. It caused them some positive stress knowing that if their demonstration or experiment flopped it would not only look bad on them, but also that the grade 1 learners would be disappointed.
So I’ll leave with an encouragement to get out there and connect with other grades and schools around your community. Have your high school learners “teach” elementary learners. It is hard and meaningful “work” for them to do.
SRSS Author: Craig Desaultels