Thursday, 11 December 2008

Sometimes You Have To Get Dirty

You may have noticed Tracy Ruark, who has been in our classroom for several weeks now. She is spending time with us and we are expecting she will be taking over when Mrs. Timmons goes on maternity leave. From this except, you will realize what a treat our students are in for!

Mrs. Ruark... I have to admit that my first lesson in front of Randi Timmons and Cathy Daniels was a bit nerve racking. But after admitting I took a couple of soil classes in college Cathy announced to the class that Mrs. Ruark has a degree in soils (my actual degrees are in Geography/Environmental Conservation and International Relations/Soviet Studies). It was then immediately determined that I should teach a lesson to the class on soils. I thought to myself, “Oh boy, I’m in big trouble!”

The night before my lesson I was really concerned about engaging the children. I prepared a number of different things only to place them on the chopping block. My husband’s advice was to see science as an action like a verb instead of a noun. I was aware of the 5 E model that is used to teach Science at Chets Creek and I was determined to, at the very least, create an exciting hook so the kids would be jazzed about science.

Finally, after hours of surfing on the Internet with my pug snoring at my feet, it came to me…just be myself animated and nutty, kind of like a cross between Bill Nye and Deb Rossignol. So I did just that. I let my mind roam back to my childhood and remembered a Sunday morning when I was about seven or eight and I was walking the top rail above the pig pen dressed in my finest clothes on my uncle’s farm in Iowa. Gravity did the rest. Needless to say, I was fully engaged with the soil, and other things.

So I decided to reenact the event and cover myself in mud from head to toe. And that is exactly what I did. I burst into the classroom and shouted excitedly, “Guys, I really need your help. Mrs. Phillips has asked me to go out and find different kind of soil that would be good for growing plants. I have been digging in the dirt around Chet’s Creek and have been unsuccessful. The job is just too big! I need help! So, I need you to help me look.”

The kids immediately blurted out, “What happened to you?” I knew they were hooked! What followed was an amazing dirt digging, soil gathering, slide making extravaganza. After coming inside we explored the slides under the doc-cam and the kids made wonderful observations about dirt (actually humus, clay and sand). The children stayed engaged for the whole lesson. I knew then, at least in some small way, that I had contributed to the building of new schema within our students. It feels pretty good to go with your gut and have it work out. I owe a huge thanks to Kathy and Randi for letting me be me, an animated and nutty dirt doctor.


T-Cubed said...

Students engaged beyond recognition,teachers covered in mud,and "real" science goin' on! It doesn't get much better than that :-}



Suzanne said...

Mrs. Ruark,

I actually heard about this before I read your post because not only were the students engaged, but the other teachers who work with you were, too!

We are blessed to have your journey lead you here and to this particular classroom. Kudos for a job well done!