As the school year begins to wind down, teachers at North Shore High School have an opportunity to cover topics not typically covered in their common class curriculum. Nancy Cunningham, a biology teacher, assigned her students hands-on projects during this time, saying she “wanted to open the students’ eyes to what isn’t in their textbooks.”
This year, after realizing one of her student’s mothers was a kindergarten teacher at Glenwood Landing Elementary, Cunningham had the idea of hosting North Shore’s first-ever Science Exploration Day. The event involved IB science students at the high school teaching kindergarteners about biology, chemistry, and physics in a clear and entertaining way. It also introduced the kindergartners to a world of learning opportunities available to them throughout their school district.
Cunningham worked with Sara LeMar, a physics teacher, Seth Klein, a chemistry teacher, and biology teacher Dana Francis to prepare an event that was filled with opportunities for involvement for the younger students.
“Students submitted proposals on ideas for learning stations, and the most appropriate and engaging were chosen,” Cunningham said. This alone was a learning experience for the high schoolers, as some found it “challenging to explain complex concepts on a fundamental level,” said LeMar.
Klein remarked that his students used visual images and activities to overcome this obstacle, which junior Mark Reali felt forced him “to know the material [his] station was based upon even more.”
During the event on June 6, the high school students became the teachers, and taught a broad range of topics to the kindergarteners, from discussing a gecko’s use of camouflage all the way to making slime through chemical reactions. As they learned about what gives poison dart frogs their brightly colored skins and watched them hop around a tank, the kindergarteners screamed, “I love science,” and, “This is the best day ever!”
The high schoolers were overjoyed too. “I loved watching the kindergartners’ obvious displays of excitement,” said Sarah Sterling, a junior.
Science Exploration Day was enriching for all involved. Kindergarten teacher Linda Burgos said that the event presented a unique experience for kindergarteners to have a one-on-one learning opportunity and was proud to see that her students questioned their observations and explored their ideas. Cunningham said she was also thrilled to see the kindergartners learning high-level science.
Junior Dana Aufiero said that one of the most rewarding parts of the event was how quickly the high school students became role models for the kindergartners, a relationship she believes is “crucial, as it facilitates strong bonds and shows the younger students that they can always turn to their high school friends for help,” she said.