Nov. 9, 2011
Horace Mann, Northwest students ‘Discover Nature’ with help of grant
Children at Horace Mann Laboratory School, as well as the Northwest Missouri State University students training to be their teachers, are experiencing nature firsthand thanks to a grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The grant recently awarded $1,000 to Heidi Beatty’s third grade class for the purchase of books and science equipment including microscopes, binoculars and thermometers. In addition, Beatty’s class will receive $7 per student to be used for curriculum-related field trips.
The grant deems Horace Mann a “Discover Nature” school, and the curriculum helps students learn about science and the environment with hands-on lessons that engage them in the scientific thinking process.
“I find myself growing every year, so I’m hoping that I’m showing the students how they can apply science methods, how to encourage discovery and not just stand up and say, ‘Let’s read this paragraph,’” said Beatty, who completed her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at Northwest in 2007 and her master’s degree in educational leadership: elementary administration at Northwest in 2008.
While the curriculum provides instructors with basic lesson plans that guide them on terminology and misconceptions kids may have about science, it also encourages instructors to move their classrooms outdoors.
T.J. Peacher, an education consultant with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the grant and the curriculum are based on the idea that children learn by doing. The books are designed and produced by Missouri conservation staff.
“This is a complete Missouri project,” Peacher said. “We love to get kids outside. You can learn a lot of stuff inside, but if you really want to learn something, you’ve got to get dirty.”
Beatty leads her children outside for observation nearly every afternoon to take temperature readings and draw conclusions about everything from the weather to the plants and animals they see. While the Northwest campus is designated as the Missouri State Arboretum, Beatty’s students have studied environmental components at the J.W. Jones Student Union, Colden Pond and the B.D. Owens Library.
Beatty incorporated science notebooks in which her students jot notes about their observations and experiments. The notebooks – uniquely decorated by each student – include vocabulary cards, games and drawings.
The students are even using iPads for their observations. By plugging a temperature probe into the computer’s USB drive, the iPad reads the temperature and graphs it for the students. And when a rainy day recently prevented the students from heading outside, they quickly logged on to weather.com using their iPads.
“It’s really great for the kids because it’s hands-on, and they discover on their own,” said Nicole Collins, a senior elementary education major from Kansas City, Mo. “They’re not reading from a textbook. They’re not having to sit at their desks and have someone preach to them, ‘This is what you need to know.’ They can get out and do it.”
But the benefits of the grant also extend to Northwest students like Collins and Lauren Gobet, who are training to become educators by assisting Beatty in her classroom. With Beatty’s guidance, practicum students are planning lessons about organisms, populations and ecosystems. The Northwest students also have incorporated songs and activities into the lessons.
“It definitely shows us a different way to teach science,” said Gobet, a senior elementary education major from Lebanon. “It’s something for us to look forward to when we are teachers and we can write this grant for our classrooms.”
Beatty said she is excited for the opportunities the grant provides Northwest elementary education majors as well as her third grade students.
“I am thrilled to share my love of science with the University students that observe and teach in my classroom daily,” Beatty said. “University students will be exposed to and expected to teach lessons in the Discover Nature unit. My hope is that this hands-on, inquiry-based science will spark a light in my University students that perhaps was dim before. I think the skills they will acquire by being exposed to this type of learning will make even more marketable in the teaching field.”
Beatty began working on the grant last year as a sixth grade teacher at Savannah Middle School and completed it this fall with fourth grade instructor Julie Sealine. The school celebrated the grant award with an all-school assembly Nov. 1.
Beatty’s and Sealine’s classes also will travel to Squaw Creek Eagle Days Dec. 2 and to the Nodaway County Wildlife Area in April to further allow students ways to utilize their knowledge and natural sense of curiosity.
The Horace Mann Laboratory School is an innovative program that provides a clinical experience for pre-service teachers, and a diverse and interactive learning environment for children ages 3 through sixth grades. Housed in Brown Hall, Horace Mann Laboratory School is a kindergarten-sixth grade school with about 130 students. Additionally, early childhood classes for children age 3 through pre-kindergarten are based in the Early Care and Education Laboratory Center (ECELC) on the lower level.
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