Education Students Succeed, Cross Boundary into Local Schools

Education students helped to mark the completion of Albion College’s theme year of sustainability by making the connection in the lessons they prepared and delivered to students in the Albion Public Schools during the month of May.

Titled “Boundary Crossings” in the course catalog and known on campus as Maymester, the program is an example of the Albion Advantage in that it provides the College’s prospective teachers an opportunity to experience the rigors of the education profession – everything from observation, the development of lesson plans and learning materials, and actual classroom management and instruction – even before the capstone of completing the student teaching assignment.

Kelsey Lademan, '12, talked with visitors to her display at the "Showcase of Learning" in the Science Complex Atrium. Dave Lawrence photographKelsey Lademan, '12, talked with visitors to her display at the "Showcase of Learning" in the Science Complex Atrium.
(Photo: Dave Lawrence)
Kelsey Lademan, ’12, a French major from Fenton, faced the challenge of developing lessons when she was placed with Paul Fiori, a science teacher at the high school. Coming off a study-abroad experience in France, she succeeded at connecting her college coursework by developing the theme of cultural chemistry.

“I thought it would be impossible,” Lademan said. “I sat down with [education professor Suellyn] Henke and she asked me, ‘What cultural things about France do you remember most?’ I said, ‘They eat so much bread,’ and I saw the connection between chemistry and baking. I made the connections between France and chemistry by trying to get the students to understand there are cultural connections that have nothing to do with a foreign language.”

Lademan broke the class into small groups to take turns trying to perfect a loaf of bread. Students who weren’t working on baking spent time researching French chemists.

“We had five breadmaking machines for 90 students,” Lademan said. “I wanted to do one machine per class, but that wasn’t going to work.

“Every class seemed to have one loaf of bread that went wrong—whether it was too dry, expanded too much, or didn’t taste great,” she added. “That was OK because I wanted them to see the difference between a good finished product and a not-so-good finished product, and to explain to me what went wrong and to get more perspective from the chemistry aspect.”

Weather has been a headline in the news this month as tornadoes have wrought destruction in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo., and record-high river levels have flooded areas along the Mississippi River. Reading the news and watching The Weather Channel became a daily ritual for Tyler Millward, ’11, as he prepared for his unit on weather and climate with Lou Lerma, the middle school science and physical education teacher.

“I have been talking to them about current events,” said Millward, a biology major who listens to the radio news during the commute from Battle Creek to Albion each day. “It has been easy to make connections. I’ve been watching The Weather Channel to pick up new terminology.”

In making the connection to sustainability, however, Millward asked the students to consider how the Earth’s population is expected to grow to 10 billion by the year 2050 and how that is reducing the amount of land available for recreation and biodiversity.

“My rationale for the project is that it is important to not only establish recreational parks and protected land areas, but to maintain them because that is better for plants, animals, and us,” Millward said. “I assigned groups of students [one of the 16 parks in Albion] and gave them a disposable camera to take photographs of good aspects and bad aspects. The students have been completing their posters the last couple of days, and that’s what I’ll be displaying at the showcase of learning.

Adam Shireman, '12, delivered a lesson about camouflage during a field trip to the Whitehouse Nature Center. D. Lawrence photo.Adam Shireman, '12, delivered a lesson about camouflage during a field trip to the Whitehouse Nature Center.
(Photo: Dave Lawrence)
Albion city parks weren’t the only areas that schoolchildren explored during the month of May. David Green, director of the College’s Whitehouse Nature Center, reported that close to 500 Albion Public Schools students visited the 135-acre outdoor educational facility thanks to support from a Michigan Campus Compact Venture Grant.

It was at the nature center that Adam Shireman, ’12, was teaching a group of students about camouflage as part of his unit about the Vietnam War in Pat Chamberlain’s 10th grade U.S. history classes. An associated part of Shireman’s unit dealt with the civil rights era.

“I’ve wanted to be a history teacher since I was in high school,” said Shireman, who hails from Muskegon. “One of the first classes in my major was an East Asian history class, and a big part of it was reading first-person accounts and watching videos about Vietnam. The class taught me many things that a history book couldn’t or wouldn’t tell you, what really happened. The material shocked me and made me want to dig deeper.”

The Boundary Crossing course is more than just a three-week period in the classroom for the College’s prospective teachers. After the school day, they return to campus to work on video projects or other items that will become part of the digital portfolio they will use to land a job. The prospective teachers also meet three days a week for a 90-minute seminar to discuss their experiences in the classroom.

The value of the entire experience is apparent when the prospective teachers who spent extra time in Albion at the end of the academic year return to the classroom for their student-teaching placement.

“I’m confident standing up in front of a group of diverse learners,” said Millward, who graduated from Climax-Scotts High School. “I was not used to that coming from a rural farming community. I’m used to cramming for my classes at Albion College, but the difference is not only memorizing something but transforming the material into activities and ways in which the students will learn and relate.”

Henke noted donations from the Albion Philanthropic Women and Kryst Farms also supported the Boundary Crossings course.