Monday, November 30, 2009

Who knew I would like 1st graders?

I have been volunteering in a local 1st grade classroom once a week for the last couple of months. I run a weekly "science club" for the girls in two classes, while the boys have their club with male mentors in an adjacent room. I have to admit that I was not really all that into it at first. These kids are so young that it really felt more like babysitting than teaching. Also, a few of the girls are very clingy, and I just don't have the patience for that. The last two weeks I started to have a change of heart. I think part of it was learning how to keep the attention of a 7 year old, and part was my allowing myself to be a bit more enthusiastic. I remember one day walking over telling myself that I was going to enjoy it this time, and it worked. Anyhow, today was our last meeting, and I realized that I had gotten through to them. I had come up with some questions based on what we had been doing that I was going to make a game out of. I fully expected to have to lead them to the answers. Many of the questions were about vocabulary words I had mentioned a few times, and some were more abstract questions trying to get to the point of the experiments we had been doing. I was so impressed because not only were the girls attentive and not calling out (I told them I got points when they called out, and they got points when anyone got a question right) the got probably 85% of the questions correct on the first or second try! It was a very tangible way of showing them (and me) that they had learned a lot. Even better was the enthusiasm they showed when I asked them if they thought science was cool... all hands shot up and the squirms were basically uncontrollable. It was completely adorable. I realized that I haven't been wasting my time, and that some of these girls might actually benefit from being introduced to science in a fun way at such a young age. The dry ice fog was just the icing on the cake that made it a really great end to the semester. Part of me is worried that I really don't have time to volunteer, and that I should wait until I get more settled into grad school. However, when I think about it, I'm not sure I'll ever be less busy, and if outreach/teaching/volunteering is important to me I need to make it a priority starting now!

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