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April 17, 2023

Teacher Academy course sets students up for success as future teachers

Teacher academy

Mrs. Blevins’ Teacher Academy class is humming with energy when I walk in. The students, made up of mostly Seniors, are enthusiastic to be discussing their newly created lessons with South Central STEM Hub Manager Sarah Derry and STEM Hub Assistant Lisa Morlock. Their developed activities give elementary students hands-on experience with science in the classroom as teachers across the state can check out the activities to use in their classrooms. Students partnered up and focused on African-American inventors as well as connecting their activity content back to an Iowa Core standard. I sat down with a few of the Seniors to hear about their project creations.

Teacher academy students Josie and Emma

Josie McLaughlin and Emma Kacer

First up is Josie and Emma. Their project motivation is from inventor, Lewis Howard Latimer, who helped Alexander Graham Bell with patenting the telephone,which uses soundwaves. They decided to recreate soundwaves for their classroom activity and call it “Star Wars Soundwaves.” First grade students will use a cup and a slinky held up to their ear to hear how the sound waves move and how they are different. Students can then make observations and get key information connected to the inventor.

Teacher academy students Maddy and Grace

Maddy LaVoi and Grace Manning

I visited with Maddy and Grace next. The inventor they chose was Garrett Morgan, inventor of the 3 Color Traffic Light. Maddy and Grace had to do a lot of research to figure out how to bring creating a stoplight down to a first grade level. They are excited about being students themselves and getting to create an activity for students. They plan to have the classroom use the stoplight activity to play Red Light, Green Light.

Teacher academy students Ellie and Ryan

Ellie Megonnell and Ryan Henzie

Finally, I got to meet Ellie and Ryan. Their activity is cell differentiation for 6th graders, inspired by Dr. Ernest Everett Just. They developed a model of a cell using Play-Doh. Students can partner up to describe the function of a cell as a whole, how they are different from each other, and observe what the cells might do. Ellie and Ryan are currently looking into an example of an actual human cell for their activity.

Sarah Julie Amy

So how did this class get the opportunity for the hands-on experience that aligned with their future aspirations? I asked Mrs. Blevins how she found out about this opportunity. “It is called Project Accelerator and is focused on raising awareness of Iowa’s Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning from the Iowa Department of Education. I received an email about it and decided to sign up.” Project Accelerator is a unique course opportunity for any Iowa educator looking to learn more about quality work-based learning experiences. Blevins also said, “It is all about getting more teachers to use the Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning to bring more project-based learning opportunities into the classroom.” Blevins was connected to this by Orbis Mentor, Chad Brooks. STEM Iowa had reached out to Orbis, Ankeny’s work-based learning program looking for elementary classroom activities for teachers to check out from their library. “It ended up being a perfect fit in regards to developing lessons, instructional strategies, and engagement for students. This partnership was a big win to have this work and create meaningful opportunities for my students.”

Find out more about Project Accelerator.