University of Florida
(1) The SPICE program offers unique opportunities for me: (a) to be mentored by an experienced middle school teacher, (b) to implement inquiry-based laboratory and field experiments directly related to my expertise, and (c) to teach low income, mostly minority student population. My effectiveness as an educator has increased greatly, and I shall continue community outreach to a diverse population after this experience. (2) I have gotten more out of the SPICE program than the students. I have learned that I love to teach middle school science. No matter what career I choose, I plan to participate in science (especially environmental) education. This is just the beginning of my life-long involvement in science education. (3) I have learned to pare down the information to the essentials to convey my message to students and at the same time, have honed the teaching skills that I will use in academia. I have also learned how to work collaboratively with educators, fellow graduate students, professors, and community leaders to construct lesson plans that center on ecosystems to persons who are not familiar with this information. I have been able to present my experiences at academic meetings and share our programís successes with other schools and entities to spur their interest in this type of community involvement in education. (4) I implemented a student-led ecological survey of the tree frog community around our schoolyard. Results from this survey shed light on schoolyard ecosystem functionality and general trends in urban development. Publication of this survey will benefit my progress in herpetology and those in education through tying student research to sound scientific study. (5) Through this program, I have realized the importance of adult support as young students learn new things. Having a second teacher in the classroom allows for more personal attention and encouragement. Nothing is a substitute for support at home, but I feel my most important role in the classroom is to support and encourage these students to learn. (6) One of the most challenging exercises has been to present relatively complex information in a tangible and entertaining light. The lessons I have learned have been quite useful in my graduate coursework, as well. My presentations have become much less dry, with more discussion-oriented formats and diverse learning styles are noted. Through the GK12 program, I have learned to communicate science to a broader audience.