Skylar Pippin ’19 knew that teaching was a difficult profession. But after working with local elementary and middle school science teachers during an annual teaching institute at Randolph last week, she has an even stronger appreciation for the preparation that goes into each lesson.
“It’s been a different viewpoint because I’m used to seeing education from the student perspective,” Pippin said. “It’s definitely eye opening to see how much work the teachers have to put in, not just in the school setting but outside of it too.”
This is the seventh year Randolph has hosted the week-long “Teaching Math and Science in a Changing World” program, funded by a grant from the State Council of Higher Education Virginia (SCHEV). It is open to math and science teachers from Nelson, Campbell, Bedford, and Amherst counties as well as Lynchburg City and New Vistas School.
This year, education professor Peggy Schimmoeller, physics professor Peter Sheldon, and biology professor Amanda Rumore enlisted Pippin and Igor Ngabo ’18 to help prepare for and provide assistance during the institute as part of a Summer Research project. Both students were grateful for the opportunity to gain experience in the education field.
“I’ve enjoyed everything,” Pippin said. “I’m a liberal studies major, so it’s been great to get pointers from our education faculty and to prepare for something like this because I want to teach math and science to elementary school children.”
“Being part of the Summer Research program itself is really prestigious, especially for someone like me who is on a pre-med track,” Ngabo said. “So, having some research experience is an added bonus. But also I knew the program would allow me to work with kids, so I was really interested in that and how the project intersects science and education—two things that are also really important to me.”
Some of the activities at this year’s institute included biology experiments with DNA extraction, physics tests involving LEGOs, and using chemistry to create small explosions. Because of popular demand, there was also an added emphasis on math. In the fall, the teachers will take these hands-on lessons back to their classrooms for students to enjoy.
“I think teachers are so busy during the school year that they don’t have the time to plan out an entire inquiry based learning activity,” Rumore said. “So, we’re kind of doing that prep work for them and showing them how they can use them to help their students.”
Sheldon added that the Randolph students who help each year with the teaching institute are doing much more than just organizing an event. The Randolph students also record and compare student achievement from year to year, based on the data from participating teachers’ classrooms. The group will also present their work at the Children’s Engineering Conference in Roanoke this fall.
“The important thing to remember is that, underneath it all, this is still a research project,” Sheldon said. “We’re trying to influence teachers and show them new things, then see and measure what the impact is in the classroom.”