Senior Projects Bring Out Creativity in Elementary Education Students
Photos courtesy of Victoria Groomer
Students in Victoria Groomer's second-grade class at Westside Elementary School in Rogers discuss and record (above) their partner's answer to: "Which resources do you think are more important to families in poor countries?" and identify (below) producers and consumers in various literature genres.
From goats to government, the lessons University of Arkansas students taught children in northwest Arkansas this year were fun, topical, in-depth and practical. The soon-to-be-employed new teachers taught the children about economics, American history, Arkansas history, horticulture, meteorology, space, biology and electricity.
Seniors studying elementary education in the College of Education and Health Professions created displays of their senior projects and set them up recently in the Graduate Education Building on the Fayetteville campus. These were students in the college's four-year licensure program in which they take two years of coursework at NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, then transfer to the university's Global Campus location in Rogers.
These students do their internship at elementary schools in Rogers, Bentonville and Springdale in the fourth year. For the senior project, they create a unit for their class to study, then teach it and report results to their instructors.
At the display fair, faculty members and other students – those in the Fayetteville campus' five-year teacher licensure program – strolled through, examining the books used in the lessons, photos taken in classrooms, assessments before and after the lesson.
Victoria Groomer described a unit on economics she taught second-graders at Westside Elementary in Rogers.
"Because economics is abstract, I decided the students needed to be producers and consumers to understand the concept," she said. "I used Heifer International in the lesson."
The children recruited sponsors to pay them to read. With the money they earned, they "bought" goats through Heifer International, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance and sustainability.
"Our goal was one goat for $120," Groomer said. "Instead, we raised enough money for three goats."
The children learned that, with a goat, a family could have milk and yogurt as well blankets and clothing later as the herd increased.
"They learned how families in developing countries could go from consumers to producers as a result of their gift," she said.
Groomer contacted a local goat farm and arranged for twin baby goats to be brought to the class. "Seventy-five percent of the students had never seen a goat," she said.
Local newspaper reporters documented the meeting, and Groomer created a photo slideshow and gave DVDs to all of the students in her class.
The senior project taught her more about how students learn, Groomer said. She used cooperative learning, pairing students to help each other.
"I paired them in several ways – a student doing very well in class with one who was struggling, an English language learner with a native English speaker, and randomly," she said. "I remember one time when I assigned students randomly, two who were struggling were paired together. I wondered whether I should change the arrangement but I didn't. They blew me away. They were so supportive of each other. I learned never to have preconceived notions about ability."
Jim Tran's creativity was obvious in his display about the American history unit he taught to third-graders at Bayyari Elementary in Springdale. He focused on symbols of America – the Statue of Liberty, government monuments in Washington, even people such as Caesar Chavez, a Mexican-American who worked for migrant farm workers' rights.
Tran introduced his unit by showing the students a video he created of himself dressed as a government agent in dark suit and sunglasses. He gave them a "mission" to learn about their country and taught them to make a PowerPoint presentation, a new technology for most, with what they learned.
"Many of the students knew several of the symbols, but they did not understand their significance," he said.
The four-year degree-completion program conducted through the Global Campus expects to graduate 32 interns this spring and has more than 60 students enrolled to start a new cohort in the fall.