A group of 31 third-graders from School 12 in Paterson, New Jersey got to “go to college” for a day, and it was an opportunity they took very seriously.
The children broke up into groups and got right to work at the Paterson Falls Fair, presented on the William Paterson University campus by 21 seniors pursuing degrees in elementary education. The Fair served as an opportunity for third-graders to learn about their city’s history and for teacher-candidates to practice their pedagogical methods.
WP seniors engaged the third-graders in a series of multidisciplinary activities, which included role playing as prominent historical figures from the city, using its chief textiles of silk and cotton to create “clothing,” and constructing their own mini, working waterwheels to mimic the wheels at Paterson’s Great Falls—a major force in the industrial development of New Jersey.
“Can I talk about what I learned?” asked third-grader Aaliyah, stepping out of her assigned group to present her findings about Thomas Rogers to Professor Elizabeth Brown, who organized the Fair. “Thomas Rogers made the first locomotive,” she said proudly, pointing to pictures she drew and explaining the importance of Rogers’ work. When Brown asked if Aaliyah previously knew about the many inventions that came out of Paterson, the wide-eyed little girl shook her head No.
The Fair was not only tied to the third-graders’ curriculum, but also to the University students’ curriculum, aligning with elementary education courses in social studies methods, science methods, literacy and learning, and arts methods. Professors from each of those courses joined Brown—namely Alison Dobrick, Laura Fattal, and Julie Rosenthal—to observe their students in action and record excerpts of their interactions on video.
The videos will be analyzed by the teacher-candidates and faculty in small groups to find evidence of the Fair’s key elements (Facilitate total participation; Ask deep questions; Incorporate students’ prior knowledge; Respect and establish a rapport with students), Brown explains.
“You know, there are all these studies about how students learn the most, how they learn best. This is it: It’s hands-on learning,” Fattal says. Beside her, a group of third-graders excitedly poured a jug of water onto a water wheel they constructed with teacher-candidates’ instruction.
“It moves faster when you pour more water on it,” a teacher-candidate says, as she tips the jug a smiling a third-grader was holding over their plastic cup-wooden skewer creation.
“We talk a lot about using community resources in education,” Brown adds. “So, if you’re teaching in Paterson, see what’s out in that community and bring it into the classroom. That’s a great way to engage students.”
Tamerra Williams ’20, who is currently student-teaching in Paterson School 29, says the Fair was very educational for her.
“Because this is team teaching, we’re learning from each other. We don’t normally get to see how other teacher-candidates work in the classroom,” Williams says. “Today, I got to see some of that. I thought, ‘Oh, I like the way she did that,’ or ‘I could use some of this activity with my class.’ We’re all new at this. It’s important to gain that experience.”
William Paterson University
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Wayne, New Jersey 07470