Teaching Partnerships

By Eve Pranis

When roles are switched and students become teachers, it can be a growing experience for everyone. Jim Micarelli, Science Department Head at Everett High School in Everett, MA, wrote to describe an innovative GrowLab workshop for elementary teachers which incorporated an unusual group of presenters -- their former students turned high school seniors.

As part of revising the elementary science curriculum, Everett elementary schools are adopting GrowLab. An initial teacher-taught workshop introduced GrowLab to 93 teachers. Micarelli then sought a novel kind of follow-up workshop to inspire the teachers even further. He challenged Everett High School senior studying Advanced Placement Biology to Become the workshop leaders and instruct their former teachers.

Working in teams, the students chose a topic or activity from the GrowLab curriculum and over several weeks conducted their own research or experiments. Then during a GrowLab teacher workshop, each team presented a five-to seven-minute talk complete with visuals, demonstrations, creative ideas, and humor. The student instructors created curriculum webs, showing how GrowLab could be integrated into other subject areas. They helped teachers understand such topics as overcrowding with "Make Room for Raddy," plant propagation with "Plantenstein," and phototropism with "A-Maz-ing Light." They also shared some of their "failures" and suggested how participants might modify the activities for the classroom.

Participating teachers enjoyed a rare opportunity to see, firsthand, the results of some of their past teaching efforts. "Wow! This is the best workshop I have attended," reported one participant. "I can't believe it...he was so shy in my fourth grade class, and now he is teaching me."

"It is so nice to be standing here, on this side of the desk, keeping 93 teachers after class!" Remarked on the student instructors. Said Micarelli, "The students were really able to realize the depth of the concept 'to teach is to learn twice.'"

"The workshop seemed pivotal for motivating teachers to use GrowLab activities," said Micarelli. "The high school students basically demonstrated how easy and fun it was and that if they could do it, their former teachers could do it. Two months after this workshop was presented, the elementary classrooms turned green with 'Salad Celebration' parties, marigolds for Mother's Day, and just a general excitement and interest about plants."

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