April 4: Science teachers-to-be explain nanotechnology

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education

NanoDaysPULLMAN, Wash. – Students at Washington State University studying to be science teachers will help children conduct hands-on experiments at the tiniest scales during NanoDays at the Palouse Discovery Science Center 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 4, at 950 NE Nelson Court, Pullman.

The event will take place during the week at more than 250 science and children’s museums across the country. See http://www.nisenet.org/nanodays for more information.

Admission for non-PDSC members costs $5 for children, $7.50 adults and $6 seniors. Members and children under 2 get in free.

WSU students will practice teaching science in an informal setting as they run education stations about nanotechnology topics they have researched. Nanotechnology concerns matter at the smallest level – on the atomic, molecular and supramolecular scales.

Small science, big impact

“When you make science fun, kids pick right up on it,” said Rich Lamb, WSU assistant professor of science education. “It’s especially a thrill to teach kids about nanoscience and nanotechnology. They love that it’s incredibly small, but could make big impacts on the future.”

Rich Lamb

The students are in a WSU College of Education science methods class. Lamb said it is a good chance for these pre-service teachers to learn how to build their own knowledge, as well as how to use community resources like PDSC (http://www.palouse
) to supplement their teaching.

“There’s a nationwide demand for STEM-ready teachers, which puts a lot of pressure on those teachers who are generalists,” he said. “Events like this are fantastic because, even if elementary teachers have little expertise or experience in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects, they are required to teach them.”

Science methods class about partnership

Though this is the first NanoDays event for the science methods students, the college has had its pre-service teachers involved in other science education, including partnering with the local YMCA after-school programs.

Kaylan Petrie

Having collaborative experiences built into the course is helpful for the teachers-to-be, said Kaylan Petrie (http://education.wsu.
), graduate assistant and course instructor for science methods.

“Many new teachers feel anxious about teaching science in a formal setting, so part of the rationale for this assignment is to help boost our students’ confidence before they teach in a classroom,” she said.

Another helpful aspect is exploration of science topics that may be new to the future teachers, yet are important to everyday life.

“The idea is to translate the sometimes complicated language of science into a fun, understandable activity that is appropriate for a range of grade levels and ages,” Petrie said. “This helps our WSU students gain experience creating activities that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (http://www.nextgenscience.org/).”


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