Clinton Elementary Students Dig Class With Hamilton Geoscience Majors

Senior geoscience majors Megan Fung and Lisa Feuerstein.
Senior geoscience majors Megan Fung and Lisa Feuerstein.
Two Hamilton geoscience majors provided a hands-on learning experience for Clinton Central School (CCS) elementary students last semester as part of their senior thesis projects. Lisa Feuerstein '10 and Megan Fung '10 developed independent projects with their own self-designed curriculums that involved teaching at the local elementary school.

Feuerstein and Fung, advisees of Professor of Geosciences Cynthia Domack, conducted an after school enrichment program for 3rd and 4th graders in Clinton. “For our senior thesis we are able to develop independent projects and self-design the curriculum,” Feuerstein explained. Hamilton students have been collaborating with local schools on teaching projects for about 10 years, Feuerstein said, but each year’s focus is different.

The response was overwhelming. Steven Marcus, principal of CCS, said approximately 30 percent of the 3rd and 4th graders agreed to remain an extra hour after school to learn a variety of science related skills. This included hands-on opportunities that were creative and memorable.

Feuerstein taught mineralogy, fusion plate tectonics and volcanology, meteorology, paleontology and planetary geology to 4th graders for five weeks. "For each class I incorporated hands-on activities,” Feuerstein said. “I brought in materials from my classes, developed labs and exposed them to new concepts.” Feuerstein and her students made a hurricane in a bottle and played cosmic bingo. "I feel I exposed them to a whole new branch of science," and, she added, "they were so excited to learn."

Megan Fung taught third graders and focused on paleontology. “I wanted to incorporate hands-on learning,” she said, “because science was not that interesting to me in elementary and even high school.” She recalled that when she was in high school, "girls in particular were afraid of using hi-tech equipment," so she brought in a microscope from Hamilton's science department for her students to use. In her seven-week program, Fung created a fossil collection to bring to her class and the group visited a quarry to dig for fossils. “Both of us got a lot out of it,” she said of her and Feuerstein’s involvement.

“The students who took part in this learned how to think and learn about scientific theory that could be mindboggling for most adults,” Marcus said of the enrichment program. “They all left this offering with tools to continue their independent exploration of science and more specifically, geology. Rocks will never just be rocks,” he observed.

Marcus noted that parents and the Clinton School District administrators were grateful to have this opportunity for their students. “Lisa and Megan shared their enthusiasm and knowledge about potentially challenging scientific theory and developed lessons that were developmentally appropriate for 3rd and 4th graders. They made a difference with our students,” he said.

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