Reflection on my first weeks as a GK-12 Fellow

My name is Annaria Barnds and I am a 1st year GK-12 fellow and a 4th year Biomechanics PhD student who studies the effects of the progression of Parkinson’s disease on motor control and balance but I am also very passionate about education and teaching; therefore I am very excited about the opportunity to get out of the lab once a week and into an 8th grade science classroom in KCK.

I am paired with Ralph Ziegler, an 8th grade science teacher at Rosedale Middle School in Kansas City, KS.  While I have done tutoring over the years with middle school aged children, prior to the GK-12 the last time I was in a middle school classroom during regular lesson hours was probably when I was an 8th grade student myself.

My most interesting observation in my first few weeks at Rosedale was that getting kids excited about science doesn’t always take flashy technology or smart phones- just some creativity and imagination does the trick. Right now Ralph’s 8th graders are learning about planets in our solar system and the phases of the moon. And while a well-done video or interactive smart-phone quiz may have also been effective in teaching these topics to the students, Ralph’s classroom doesn’t have these capabilities so the methods he employed involved simpler things like a football field, a basketball, or an overhead projector. 

For example, when the students were learning how many million miles each planet was from the sun, they weren’t actively visualizing just how far away Neptune, for example, was from the other more tightly packed planets like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. However when we brought all the students out to the football field where different students represented each planet, with their relative distance apart scaled to yards, seeing was believing.  This relatively simple exercise really helped the students understand not only the location of planets, but also how vast our solar system is and why certain planets take much longer to revolve around the sun.

I am looking forward to this entire academic year where myself, the students, and my teacher will continue to learn together; I foresee this hopefully being my most rewarding year so far as a graduate student thanks to the GK-12 Fellowship.

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