Sherman fifth graders recently received classroom instruction from a group of Austin College students as part of the college’s Janterm program.
Fifth grade students at Dillingham Intermediate School hosted Austin College students on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the Janterm course Exploring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education.
Austin College’s Janterm is a micro semester with classes that typically run five days a week throughout January. The term is designed to offer students an opportunity to get out of the classroom to do experimental projects ranging from studying abroad to working in classrooms of elementary students and more.
Fifth grade science teacher Renee Henderson said she was excited to see her students engaged.
“The kids love it, they love labs, they love seeing the Austin College students come in,” Henderson said. “They love hands-on activities.”
She said the college students were excellent and she would love to have them in education.
“You want kids to be excited about coming to school,” Henderson said. “They want to do labs, not worksheets.”
There were six classes throughout the day Tuesday and each class showed a different project. Austin College student Brady Sullivan said he was looking forward to the classroom lessons. Sullivan said it was a lot of information to process early on. He said he and his classmates had to quickly develop their projects to present them to the fifth grade students.
“I am hoping the students will learn something from the projects,” Sullivan said. “I want to remind students to stick with math because they are at the age it will begin to get boring. I want to ensure them it gets exciting again.”
Freshman Gabby Walley said the class was important to her to demonstrate to young girls how important STEM course work is and how there are great careers in the field for them.
“I was a science major in high school, where I did a similar project with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, helping students with their homework,” Walley said.
Walley said she was also thrilled to work with fifth graders, stating the kids were eager to learn.
“Fifth grade is an awesome age to work with,” Walley said. “They are still developing their personalities and learning so much. I love working with students, especially getting young girls interested in STEM. This is the time young girls veer away from STEM courses. It’s really important, especially for me, to learn how they can pursue a fun career in STEM.”
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Andrea Overbay said the Exploring STEM Education course is designed to show college students how young students learn and to give them classroom experience with those students.
“The class is about experiencing education,” Overbay said. “Students pick the topics they want to explore with the fifth graders in the classroom based on what the teachers are already working on with them.”
She said the course was made possible when the college received a grant for STEM programs. Overbay said it is the first year the college has offered the course and she couldn’t say enough good things about the students, explaining they were bombarded with a ton of information the first day then told to start their projects immediately.
The college students spent the first week observing the fifth graders before presenting their projects to them. The young students were broken into teams while the college students went around explaining to each group how the experiment worked and what it was demonstrating.