Fall 2015 Issue

Blast-Off for Science Education

Building model rockets seems like the sort of project you’d find in a typical science class, right? Not exactly.

A course called The Sciences gives future educators hands-on experience engaging young learners in the study of biology, chemistry, earth and space science, and physics. The course is specifically designed for early childhood education majors who are required to have a broad base of scientific knowledge and skills for state certification.

“There are really three reasons we include building and launching model rockets early in the course,” says David McLaughlin, assistant professor of education. “One is that this activity fits nicely with our study of forces, motion and energy. The rockets are one of several examples of turning abstract concepts into engaging and concrete experiences. The model rockets also facilitate the integration of mathematics and engineering into the study of science as students consider how various design elements can influence the distance, time and direction of a rocket’s flight. So this activity provides some emphasis on the various STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] fields and how they complement one another.”

In addition to building model rockets in class, some of the students attended Susquehanna’s Saturday Science enrichment program for local elementary and middle school students, which also includes building and launching model rockets. Facilitated by Professor of Biology Jack Holt and Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Jennifer Elick, the program provides preservice teacher candidates with opportunities to work with local children and their parents on various science activities.

“By practicing the rocket build and launch in class, my students are better able to support families in completing the same task at Saturday Science,” McLaughlin says.

Allendale, N.J., native Nicole Fallon ’17, who is currently enrolled in the class, says the hands-on activities are sure to improve her ability to someday teach “the sciences” to children. “It gets us involved and helps us develop ways to incorporate lessons into the activities we’ll undertake in our future classrooms,” she said.

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