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7 Tips and Tricks to a Successful, Hands-on Classroom Visit

Woods Hole Sea Grant Educator Grace Simpkins knows how to talk to kids!

Here are Grace's top 7 tips and tricks to a successful, hands-on classroom visit:

1. Have three main takeaways ideas or concepts but relax and enjoy the unexpected. Be flexible.

  • Pick the main three things you want students to understand.  Introduce them, have the students do an activity that demonstrates them, review them at the end.
  • BUT…each time you do this in the classroom it may go differently.  Embrace the unexpected.

2. Connect to the science standards the teacher is already teaching!

  • Classroom teachers have science standards they must cover for their grade. Find out how your topic ties into their state standards and the ocean literacy principles.
  • You are enriching their experience and building on what they are learning.
  • Mass has the MA Science Technology/Engineering (STE) Standards, many other states have the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and we can all use the Ocean Literacy Principles.

3. Follow the 10-minute rule

Ocean Literacy Principles

  • Every child should have something in their hands by 10 minutes into your lesson. This ensures you are interacting with the students right away – and not standing and talking.
  • Bring something interesting related to your topic that they can touch and handle. It might be some animal bones, teeth, baleen, a cool tool, or a sample. You can pass this around and use it as a conversation starter or question generator.

4. Do science with the students, don’t just show them. Hands-on and inquiry-based approach is the best way to go.

  • Demonstrations are great but make sure you have them DO something hands-on to experiment with your topic.
  • No need to reinvent the wheel.  There are a ton of resources out there so the first step is to look around for an activity online.
  • Hands-on activities should be fun and convey the science. Relevant examples that are local or familiar.
  • ASK questions.  This will engage them and get them thinking! Don’t just tell them, get them to think about it.

5. Small groups and think/pair/share

  • Everyone gets to do more if they are in a small group as opposed to doing things as a whole class.  Have materials for folks to work in pairs or groups of 3-4. It’s just more fun!
  • Think/pair/share works well to introduce a subject.  You give the students a chance to think about something, pair them up with someone, and have them share their ideas.  You can even have them share out with the class afterwards.

6. Avoid jargon and use inclusive language

  • Using a few key scientific terms can be great but write them on the board, have the students say them, and define them.  You don’t want anyone to feel excluded by not speaking the same language.  However, it is cool for students to learn new words to wow and amaze folks at home with.
  • Inclusive language can include… “Please tell the adult you live with one thing you learned today, etc.

7. Remember the classroom teacher is there to assist you!

  • Teachers can help with classroom management (keeping the students engaged) and handing out materials. If a student is lost or seems to need a little more, ask the teacher to be their partner.
  • If dividing the class into groups, teachers can help make sure the partners will work well together.