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Nov. 24, 2017
Some local third graders received help with their learning about plant life this fall when a group of Northwest Missouri State University students partnered with them on a lesson that incorporated the children’s interests.
Their presentations on Tuesday were the culmination of the project developed collaboratively by Northwest Instructor of Professional Education Susanne Nuttall and Northwest alumnus Dustin Romans, a third grade teacher at Eugene Field Elementary in Maryville.
As Romans guided his students through the lesson about plant life, the students in Nuttall’s Reporting Pupil Progress course enhanced the third graders’ learning through performance-based tasks that involved the children researching and reacting to their findings.
“This has been an awesome, authentic experience, and rather than just being an assignment to turn in, we got to see growth and what it takes to really make those accommodations for our individual learners,” Nuttall said.
The project began in October after Romans visited Northwest students to discuss his class and expectations for the project and the students were matched with third graders. The Northwest students then conducted interest inventories with the third graders and spent four weeks working with them on a project that connected the standards of the science lesson with their individual learning styles and interests.
The third graders and Northwest students teamed up to present the projects to their classmates on Tuesday. Among the projects were colorful posters comparing plants to other living things such as humans, horses and swamp animals. There was a PowerPoint featuring exotic flowers, a plant-themed comic book, a cookbook, and a board game with true and false questions. One student created a farm inside a shoe box, and another student designed a plan to help the Kansas City Royals grow grass on their field.
“When you allow students to innately go forth with their discovery and what they love and adore, you see what happens,” Nuttall said. “Not everybody was required to do a PowerPoint. Not everybody had to do a poster. You really saw some high order thinking, especially with those that did a comparative analysis.”
While interacting with her third grader partner, Mollee Welter, a junior elementary education major from Atlantic, Iowa, learned the boy liked Minecraft and preferred hands-on projects. She kept that in mind as she developed the project with him, and the boy created a 3D model of a pumpkin life cycle with Minecraft blocks.
Welter said she enjoyed getting to know a third grader and creating a project specifically for him. She said it turned out better than they imagined.
“It is important to know your learners and how they like to learn along with what they like to learn about,” she said. “I will also take away from this the ability to be flexible and how to change your plan to make it work.”
Romans, who graduated from Northwest in 2015 with his bachelor’s degree in elementary education, said the experience was as valuable for the University students as it was for the elementary students.
“The amount of networking that gets to happen is unreal,” Romans said. “It has made the difference with starting my career. It also allows me the chance to show the Bearcat students that a job is just on the other side of that degree. There is an obtainable goal and it is awesome.
“It also shows me that I am still young in my career and have much more to learn. The teacher candidates showed off a lot of creative ideas for my students, and it has inspired me to look at my lessons differently. They are learning, my students are learning, and I am learning. We are lifelong learners.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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