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Science everywhere

Despite enthusiasm and preparation, any new teacher faces the challenges of managing a classroom and dealing with the high stakes of testing. Now imagine teaching science to students whose first language is not English.

smileFor many teachers, this experience is increasingly the norm. Nearly 10 percent of all K-12 students spoke a first language other than English, according to the 2012-13 Oregon Statewide Report Card. This statistic is similar nationwide.

A new collaboration between the OSU Extension Service and partners aims to empower pre-service teachers to engage culturally and linguistically diverse students in STEM fields. The College of Public Health and Human Sciences’ 4-H youth development program, OSU’s College of Education and the Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences (SMILE)  program are working together on the program, called “Families Involved in Education Sociocultural Teaching and STEM,” or FIESTAS. It serves youth in 3rd through 5th grades with after-school 4-H clubs at Lincoln and Garfield elementary schools in Corvallis in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club.

Through activities such as field trips to the city swimming pool to learn about the chemistry of chlorination, children learn to see science everywhere, said Ana Lu Fonseca, a 4-H outreach coordinator who helped develop the curriculum.

For Kyle May, a first-year graduate student at OSU studying math education, the experience has helped him adapt better to a multi-lingual classroom.

“The language barriers have been challenging, with multiple students who speak different languages. I try to put them in a position so that they are confident talking in another language,” May said.

In one school year, 56 pre-service teachers engaged with youth around science and math concepts inside and outside the classroom, according to Fonseca. Forty-nine youth, including 29 Latino children, completed an average of 13.5 hours of experiments, demonstrations and other experiential learning activities related to energy use.


Above: FIESTAS  program lead Ana Lu Fonseca engages with a student during a science activity at Garfield Elementary School in Corvallis (Photo: Stephen Ward)

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