Patton College Early Childhood PDS candidates plan out of this world event
Apr 18, 2018
By Tony Meale
Ask a group of kids what they want to be when they grow up, and you’ll likely get at least one aspiring astronaut. Even if you don’t, learning about rockets and outer space typically falls within the “cool” category for many children.
With that in mind, The Patton College and Morrison-Gordon Elementary partnered to host “Space Night” on March 27, as 176 students – ranging from Pre-K to 7th grade – learned from NASA astronaut Dr. Don Thomas.
A Cleveland native, Thomas presented “Living and Working in Space” via Skype, sharing personal anecdotes from his life and career, while The Patton College teacher candidates created a series of learning stations to engage students.
“We were extremely happy with the event,” said Chris Kennedy, Teacher Education associate lecturer. “We felt this was a great opportunity for our teacher candidates to get an idea of how to plan such an event. We want them to not only be great teachers, but also teacher leaders who will not shy away from planning such events. This was a great way to get them in touch with the community and working with parents.”
Teacher candidates created 17 learning stations to teach students about space, gravity, moons, stars, and constellations, among other topics, and recruited a couple of Ohio University astronomy students to bring telescopes for children to use and learn about.
There was also an “Ask the Astronomer” station featuring Dr. Douglas Clowe, Physics and Astronomy associate professor, who fielded questions from Morrison-Gordon students about numerous space-related subjects.
“Our PDS candidates planned educational, but also fun, hands-on stations for our students to engage in with their families,” said Lesley Michigan, PDS teacher liaison. “It was a very successful event.”
In addition to creating learning stations, teacher candidates planned, prepped, and marketed the event, which was held at Morrison-Gordon. They also helped clean up and administered surveys to gather student feedback. Ninety-four students completed surveys, with 88 of them (94 percent) rating the event as a 4 or a 5 – the highest possible marks.
“This event was great for all of our families,” said Morrison-Gordon fifth-grade science teacher Leigh Crites, who received her master’s degree as an Intervention Specialist from Ohio University. “It gave our Morrison families a chance to learn new information about space as a family while working together on hands-on activities created by partnership students. I am still hearing from students and parents about how much they learned and how fun the event was for them.”
One parent, in fact, emailed Crites the day after the event and called it “absolutely, hands-down, the coolest event I’ve been to in a very long time!”
While the learning stations were interactive and fun, Thomas was the star of the evening. He wowed students with photos from space and shared his inspiring story of becoming an astronaut. Thomas was turned down for astronaut selection three times but kept at it, and ultimately, the fourth time was a charm.
“The lesson is to never give up,” Thomas told students. “Keep trying. It takes hard work and time and persistence, but you can accomplish anything you want to.”
Thomas’ message – and the impact it had on students – was not lost on the teacher candidates, who hope to develop and implement similar programs when leading their own classrooms.
“Space Night was a tremendous success,” said Meghan Swazuk, who is studying early childhood education. “We received many thoughtful, positive comments about how educational and engaging the science stations were for students of all ages. Seeing their faces light up while they got lost in an engaging activity about space was definitely the most rewarding part of the night. This experience has inspired me to pursue more events like this in the future.”