From College Student to Teacher

By SARA ELIZABETH THOMPSON on October 31, 2012

The Center for Global Studies here at Penn State is involved with educational outreach within the State College community. Part of this outreach includes partnering with The Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School to help run its after-school club sessions. As an intern for the Center for Global Studies, I teach one of these clubs. Every Wednesday, for two hours, I trade in my usual role of a college student for that of a teacher of world cultures and environmental studies.

I’m currently a senior at Penn State University majoring in Community, Environment and Development, with minors in Economics and Spanish. This is a relatively new major to the College of Agricultural Sciences. I am frequently asked what I plan to do with my education after I graduate. This summer I was lucky to have an experience that has given me some idea to what I will do after graduation. I spent a month in the Dominican Republic teaching underprivileged children. From this experience I have developed a passion for education. I truly believe that the gift of education is the best thing you could ever give to someone.

What actually attracted me to the Center for Global Studies was its developing education outreach program. I think it’s extremely beneficial for students at a young age to be conscious of the world they live in, including different cultures and environments. I have the opportunity to teach two different sessions, the first being one with fourth graders and the second is with kindergarten and first graders.

It took me a few weeks to gain an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in my club. As I got to know the kids in my class better it became easier to think of activities which kept them engaged and exposed them to new information, while having fun. I can understand how after a full school day, staying after school can seem like a drag.   I want my students to look forward to Wednesday afternoons because they like what they learn and what we talk about.

Each week, I bounce back and forth between activities that focus on different cultures and the environment. For example, one week I gave a lesson on pollution and my younger students completed and colored worksheets in which they had to circle pollutants and match species to their environment. The next week, I talked with them again about the three Rs, reduce, reuse and recycle. It was really cool to see them make the connection to how you can reduce pollution through reusing and recycling products. My favorite lesson that I did with my older students was our “international party”. I instructed each student to forget about who they were as I gave them a new identity. This new identity described a person living in another part of the world. It gave their age, occupation, body language, social habits, etc. I had the students introduce themselves to each other under their new identities. I encouraged the students to interact with each other according to the social norms and body language of their aliases. It was a fun activity and I was happy as the students highlighted aspects of other cultures from what they learned from their new identities.

The more sessions I teach, the more I look forward to the Wednesday afternoons that I spend at YSCP. The learning environment the school provides is welcoming and inspiring. My students are smart kids, and believe it or not, they have even taught me some things. So far this experience has strengthened my interest in teaching. I think the next two weeks will be fun.  With Halloween and Thanksgiving approaching, I’ve been thinking about activities we can do involving holidays in different cultures. Be sure to check the CGS blog to see how everything went!

Leave a Reply