Scientific exploration, technological innovation, great feats of engineering, and solving math that continues to explain the secrets of the universe are the revered disciplines of the 21st century. It’s up to educators to ready the next generation of innovators (Generation Z) with STEM curricula in order to compete for the most coveted careers in the years to come.
However, as we all know and remember from our own school-days, these disciplines have not always been easily embraced by students. The good news is, today, that’s all changing thanks to innovative education models and shifting national priorities.
To address this growing need for STEM-ready students, IT’S ABOUT TIME® created a pedagogical model for science educators to engage with their students called Physics and Everyday Thinking (PET) that uses creative thinking, fun activities and Project-Based Learning. In talking to teachers and students across the country who use PET, we’re seeing and hearing that kids are not only having fun with physics, but that, through PET, their minds are opening to a whole new world of possibilities. We can’t all be Bill Nye (@The Science Guy) or Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson), but the PET program is a start!
The curricula has been incorporated into courses like Physics 1310 Concepts at Tennessee Technological University (TTU, @tennesseetech), where the students actively engage in science. Our awesome, talented production crew (Director, Eddie Harris, Producer, Kaitlin Tyler, and Photographer, Mae Lander) packed up their equipment and headed to, Cookeville, Tennessee (from New York) to check out TTU’s physics class in action. Here’s what happened!
Steve Robinson, one of the authors of the textbook for the PET curriculum, welcomed us into his Physics 1301 Concepts class in Learning Studio 2 of Millard Oakley STEM Center/Ray Morris Hall.
The classroom was comprised of 20-somethings huddled around their respective tables in busy discussion groups during “Activity 2,” which had the students exploring perceptions of light and color. This kind of exercise in critical thinking, perception and scientific observation is perfect for young students who may find physics concepts and standard memorization methods daunting. Our production crew watched from “behind the lens” (capturing their learning on video and in photos) as students actively engaged with their assignments and with each other.
In addition to capturing the students, our team interviewed Dr. Julie Baker, Assistant Dean, College of Education, and her brother, Jeremy Wendt, Interim Department Chair for Curriculum & Instruction and Associate Professor in Educational Technology and Brenda Robinson, former student of the PET curriculum and current middle school teacher.
It was most impressive watching both the teacher and the students learn from each other — something you don’t typically see in a science class. Notes Producer, Kait:
“The PET curriculum is an inquiry course in which the students take ownership of their own learning and understanding of the physics concepts. The wonderful aspect of this course is that it is preparing preservice teachers to be well rounded and confident in the science material they will, one day, be introducing to students. There are interesting debates about the importance of science in the elementary education. With literacy and reading being highly emphasized in the early development, science sometimes takes the back burner. However, these college students in this class, were receiving such an in depth understanding of the concepts, the nervousness and/or apprehension to the physics concepts will dwindle significantly. ”
Kait wasn’t kidding. Check out the slideshow below of PET physics students in action (no apprehension here!):
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Having watched the Tennessee Tech undergraduates enthusiastically engage with one another and embrace the curriculum, Kait recalls,
“Being on the film crew at this production shoot opened my eyes to the importance of educating preservice teachers to be confident, well rounded and prepared to teach our future children. Many of the college students were taught in a traditional way, in which the teacher stands at the front of the class and the students lecture while the students memorize notes. Every student we interviewed, who were enrolled in the Physics and Every day Thinking course, agreed that they want to exercise this new teaching methods they learned into their future classrooms. It is nice to know that, because of this course, these preservice teachers will help be the benchmark to future engagement in STEM related fields and will encourage our future students to not be afraid of science!”
While there, Kait, Eddie and Mae captured footage students working in class, but they also roamed the Tennessee Tech halls and the campus grounds recording the sights and sounds of Tennessee Tech along the way (including pictures of the legendary, Tennessee Tech Golden Eagle!).
A huge thank you to Tennessee Tech University, faculty and students for the warm welcome and the exciting learning experience!
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