By Tia Lynn Ivey
All the stars aligned to bring together Morgan County High School students with young early learning students at Kiddy Land Early Learning Center for a special collaborative project that allowed for a group of high school students to teach young children a little bit about the universe.
Science Teacher Alec Johnson, who worked with NASA last summer, teamed up with Kaleigh Sidwell, a teacher running the one of the high school’s pathway career programs training students who want to become teachers.
“I think it went very well,” said Sidwell. “We had a lot of praise from the students. The students arrived early to help set up, they dressed up for event, and they were highly motivated and happy to be there. They really enjoyed working with the younger students.”
“The immediate feedback from the students was that they didn’t want to leave and loved being with the young kids. They kept asking when they could do this again,” said Johnson, who pioneered MCHS’s new astronomy course.
Johnson and Sidwell, who both have children who attend Kiddy Land, brought Astronomy students together with the Teaching Pathway students to devise a creative a few lesson plans suitable for two-year-olds, three-year-olds, and pre-school-aged children revolving around planets, stars, space, and rocket ships. A total of 32 high school students participated in the event, which took place last Friday, Jan 25. Kiddy Land Director Shasta Tillery was pleased to have the MCHS team come to the learning center for the day.
Astronomy students complied their knowledge of the galaxy while teaching students arranged the information into age-appropriate lessons each group could understand. Each lesson plan included book readings, craft projects, and verbal lessons.
“They did a great job connecting everything together,” said Johnson. “We all wanted to make this day fun, but also educational for the kids…Our students were really excited to share the knowledge they gained in our new astronomy course and turn around and share it with these younger students.”
“It was a great exercise for my teaching students to practice and apply what they learned,” said Sidwell. “It’s like that old saying, ‘If you can’t explain it to a five-year-old, then you don’t really understand it yourself.”
Johnson and Sidwell are excited about these opportunities their classes afford their students.
Sidwell’s teaching students, who will graduate high school with a Technical College Certificate in Early Childhood Education, which would allow them to be a lead teacher in an early learning center right out of high school, is hoping more students will join the Teaching Pathway Program at MCHS.
“We plan on doing even more collaborative projects in the future,” said Sidwell, who noted her students already work with the Morgan County Elementary School and Morgan County Primary School twice a week for an entire semester to hone their teaching skills. To get involved in the Teaching Pathway Program, interested students should visit the counseling office at the high school for more information.
Johnson is looking forward to the next event his astronomy students are planning, a Star Gazing Night at Hard Labor Creek State Park that is planned for April 13.
“The students are taking care of everything, setting up telescopes and planning it all,” said Johnson. “It’s going to be a big thing and I hope the community will come out and support it.”