December 9, 2011
Krista Koeller (center), a junior from Chicago, shows two students from Wayne Elementary School how invertebrates use camouflage to avoid becoming another organism’s prey.
WOOSTER, Ohio — Of all the topics that might engage a class of fourth graders, invertebrate adaptation would probably not be at the top of the list — unless, of course, an enthusiastic group of college students with colorful visuals and interactive learning modules paid a visit and shared their knowledge.
Such was the case earlier this week when six College of Wooster students from Laura Sirot’s natural history of invertebrates class dropped into Marj Forbush’s classroom at nearby Wayne Elementary School. Each of Sirot’s students — all biology majors — selected a specific aspect of the topic and prepared an eight-minute presentation, which was repeated throughout the 80-minute session so that small groups of Forbush’s students (usually two or three) could move from station to station.
“The assignment was to develop an outreach project that would educate the general public about invertebrate biology,” said Sirot. “Our students decided to work together and indicated that they wanted to teach 4th graders because that was about the age when many of them first became interested in science.” Sirot attempted to find a 4th-grade class that would be interested, and she learned that Forbush was very open to the idea.
“Any time I can get students and professors from the College to come to our classroom I take advantage of it,” said Forbush, a 1976 College of Wooster graduate who has been a teacher at Wayne Elementary for more than 30 years. “My students love science, and exercises like this really nurture their interest and enthusiasm. As you can see, they are very engaged in each of the stations.”
In one corner, Cody Staebler, a junior from Elyria who is also majoring in chemistry, explained the concept of chemical adaptation by showing the construction of spider webs in photos and the movements of the South American velvet worm in video clips on his laptop. In the opposite corner, Della Connelly, a senior from Deep Gap, N.C., showed examples of invertebrates that mimic such creatures as ants, crickets, and snakes. Other stations featured Krista Koeller, a junior from Chicago, who showed how invertebrates change color to avoid becoming another organism’s prey, and Henry McGee, a junior from Akron, who had an assortment of invertebrates with spikes and claws, including tarantulas and spider crabs. Sirot also presented a station that was designed by Sam Schopler, a sophomore from Chapel Hill, N.C., which illustrated how the mouths of various invertebrates differ.
Just outside the classroom were two interactive stations that also proved to be immensely popular: a locomotion site, organized by junior Meredith Eyre, where students could crawl into a sack and “squirm like a worm,” and a tent where senior Harper Jocque explained the concept of bio-luminescence (a.k.a living beings that glow) using glow sticks.
“These types of outreach efforts are very valuable,” said Sirot. “They help our students communicate their knowledge in the sciences, which is very important.
“We hope that the work they did for their presentations will have a lasting legacy,” added Sirot. “In fact, we plan to make it into a traveling teacher box, which will include all the material needed for teachers to make the presentation on their own."
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