Twenty eyes belonging to eight and nine year old students peered at the engineering students’ every action and tuned into every word. The excitement was seen in the children’s eyes; it was a yearning to learn the unknown.
John Brown University engineering students Caleb Taylor and Travis Altemeier are able to witness this exact scene every Monday afternoon at Southside Elementary in Siloam Springs.
Each week, Taylor and Altemeier devote time to lesson planning, lecturing, and doing hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities with one of the third grade classes at Southside Elementary.
Altemeier, a senior renewable energy major stated that prior to this experience he had some background in working with kids, although not in the classroom setting.
“I had been a game leader in Awana activities,” Altemeier said.
Altemeier also noted how, even though this experience is strictly volunteering, teaching in a classroom is allowing him to gain key experience for his future career.
“I want to get certified in teaching high school Chemistry and/or Physics after graduation,” Altemeier said.
Taylor, a junior mechanical engineering major, noted how he had an interest in teaching prior to deciding on engineering. He also noted that one of the biggest rewards of going into the third grade classroom every week is the opportunity to see kids get excited about learning.
“I really enjoy watching them learn,” Taylor said. “At their age, learning is still fun and exciting for them because they are post wanting to act out and pre-‘too cool for school,’ so it’s a great age we are interacting with.”
Though the Education department has been sending students over to local schools for student-teaching for some time, this is one of the first times the engineering department has been involved in teaching as well.
Taylor said this program helps not only the elementary students grow in the classroom, but also allows JBU students to reach out and extend their knowledge and time to the community.
“I think this is a great program and I hope to see it continue,” Taylor said.
“Dr. Song and Dr. Turner are both really excited about it continuing to grow as well, ” Taylor said of the professors running the program.
Although some students may have a fear of getting in front of twenty kids and teaching a lesson, both Taylor and Altemeier suggested to students interested in the program to just be their genuine selves.
“Don’t be scared of the kids,” Altemeier said. “They are on your side, so just be natural and have fun with it!”