Students in Dr. Terri Hebert’s Science in the Elementary School course are getting a hands-on, engaged approach to science. Over the years, Dr. Hebert has created connections with several local organizations to build a partnership that both fosters the learning of our future teachers, and fills the needs for our community organizations. It all started when Dr. Hebert was just beginning her teaching career at IU South Bend; a time where she had limited resources herself, but knew that there was a community around her filled with resources for her and her students. Over the years, Dr. Hebert has partnered with different local places to expose her students to a wide-range of environmental elements in hopes that they can transfer what they learn in the community to their future classrooms. In the past, Dr. Hebert has taken her students to Prairie Winds Nature Farm in Lakeville, IN. Students were divided into teams to create different projects that would benefit the farm. Some of these projects included updating the map of the farm, creating educational lesson plans that met state standards to be used by the farm, updating the farm’s website, and more. This semester, Dr. Hebert has partnered with Notre Dame’s LEEF (Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility) at St. Patrick’s Park, the Potawatomi Zoo, and the Kennedy Academy’s Planetarium.
Notre Dame’s LEEF, St. Patrick’s Park
According to their website, Notre Dame’s LEEF provides a facility for environmental scientists “to conduct experiments in a field-like setting but in a more controlled environment than one can find in nature.” There are two watersheds within this site, each containing an interconnected river, stream, and wetland. With the interconnected river system and stream, students were able to see how water travels from one pond to the next, calculate its flow, and test the plant species’ ability to clean the water as it passes from pond to pond. Students also spent time learning about invasive species and removing trees.
The Potawatomi Zoo has been a consistent partner of Dr. Hebert’s for many years. This semester, students participated in ethogram activities, which are used to assess animals’ health. Students recorded animals’ activities and health status in structured time frames—initially when there was nothing in the habitat besides the animal and later when they introduced enrichment toys they had made for the animals.
Kennedy Academy’s Planetarium
At Kennedy Academy, IU South Bend students walked through a 6th grade lesson plan and were taught the importance of grant writing in a classroom setting. Students were also given training in all of the Google Classroom applications. In exchange, the college students returned to the school to judge 3rd through 6th grade science fair projects.
Impact on Students and the Community
Dr. Hebert’s partnerships have provided first-time experiences for many of her students. For example, many students had never been on a farm before, but by the end of the semester they were holding chickens and feeding goats. When asked about the impact of community-engaged teaching on students, Dr. Hebert said, “It helps them become better teachers. It makes them aware that there are others in the community that know more, and can provide them with resources when theirs are limited.” These partnerships also benefit the community by “…breaking down the walls between the community and the school,” which “…helps the community feel a part of the school.”