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UK education students deliver final project at local schools

Second grade students stand around a table with UK College of Education students to learn about earthquakes
UK College of Education students Lily Nowka, Erris Pierson and Zoey Holland work with students during unit day at Breckinridge Elementary.

University of Kentucky College of Education students carried bundles of instructional tools into Fayette County’s Breckinridge and Cassidy elementary schools for the ultimate ending to their practicum semester.

The seniors, majoring in elementary education and special education, spent the previous weeks gaining experience in classrooms across the school district and taking coursework focused on curriculum development.

The final day of class, known as “unit day,” is a culminating hands-on activity for the practicum semester, showing skills gained in designing and teaching an interdisciplinary unit of instruction.

“Our practicum students worked with second grade students at Cassidy and Breckinridge, bringing science and social studies to life,” said Pam Seales, a lecturer in the elementary education program. “The second graders played a headband game while learning the characteristics of Lexington, created mountains and mini volcanoes and learned to use cardinal directions by playing a game in small groups.”

Topics for the units planned by the UK students were selected by Fayette County second grade teachers based on the school district’s pacing guide. It outlines curriculum to be taught during the year and anticipates the time needed to help students develop an understanding of it.

“We work closely with our school partners to ensure the focus of unit day is aligned with their curriculum plans and helps enhance student learning,” said elementary education clinical instructor Joni Meade.

Teachers suggested UK students develop units focused on geography and landforms, aligned with the Kentucky Academic Standards for literacy, social studies and science.

Bailey Everee Morris, a UK senior and Lexington native, was part of a group teaching how mountains are formed, including how tectonic plates move, using food items.

“The overall experience was completely interactive, and we received a lot of intelligent feedback from the second graders,” Morris said. “Not only did the unit project expand on our lesson planning skills, but it showed us how important it is to involve students in the lesson with a hands-on activity.”

UK senior Grace McCrery’s group chose to create curriculum around volcanoes.

“We began by asking students questions about what a volcano is, where they had seen one, and what is inside a volcano,” said McCrery, an elementary education major from Louisville.

Following the lesson, the students watched a short video clip about volcanoes.

“We asked the students to think about one new fact they learned about volcanoes, then we shared those facts aloud,” said Kate Manno, a UK senior from Lexington. “Our practicum group even found a piece about volcanoes that incorporated music, so we taught it to the students to help reinforce the unit.”

The second grade students rotated between the UK practicum students’ hands-on activity stations to reinforce the content they learned, which also covered bodies of water and continents.

“In our unit, students created either an ocean, pond, lake or river,” said Nina Seal, a UK senior from Naperville, Illinois. “We brought in fun treats for the kids to use with their bodies of water, such as stickers, gummy worms, goldfish and gummy sharks. We talked to the students using an anchor chart, then students were able to create their own bodies of water using clay.”

Students in the teacher education program at UK are immersed in field experiences early in their studies and gradually build their skillsets and understanding of not only what they are teaching but how to teach. During the final semester of their senior year, education majors complete two student teaching experiences.

“I am looking forward to student teaching,” McCrery said. “This is such a rewarding profession, and I cannot wait to have my own classroom.”