Posted: Saturday, December 12, 2015
“A friend tricked me into volunteering in a second grade classroom, and I was hooked,” said Jennifer Berkley, eighth grade science teacher at Bonds Middle School Alternative Program. “I had my undergrad degree in geology, but instead of getting my master’s in volcanology, I earned a master’s in education.”
Ms. Berkley chose to teach in the Middle School Alternative Program three years ago because growing up, she was not a good student and didn’t’ enjoy school. “I want to be there for the ones who don’t have anyone,” she explained. “I found that the kids that had the most troubles are the ones I care for the most. I can say to them, ‘I was in your shoes, but look at me now.’”
Students in the Middle School Alternative Program have a three-level program they must follow, usually lasting between 30 and 45 days, to build an awareness of themselves, to learn reflective listening skills, and to establish appropriate classroom behavior, including cooperation, respect, and self-control.
Although her class size on this particular day was small – only three students – Berkley gave them an interactive and hands-on assignment to map out the formation of the Earth. They used the hallway to measure centuries of change. “When they are able to put their hands on things, they really get interested in what they are doing. This gives me the opportunity to explain types of jobs they could have in various fields,” she explained.
Joshua said he enjoys being in Ms. Berkley’s class because she does a lot of activities with students. “She lets us do experiments, like when we used a molding cast and a plastic bug to symbolize original remains. Doing experiments helps me remember stuff for the tests,” he said.
Ms. Berkley recently attended a Science P.L.U.S. mini-class, sponsored by Roper Mountain Science Center, where she left with great ideas on using interactive notebooking, a strategy that turns a composition notebook into a portfolio of student work. On the right side of the page is what students should learn, and on the left side, students explain their understanding of the subject in creative ways, such as maps, drawings, or poetry.
“I try to make learning fun. And I always tell my students I don’t ever want to see them again unless it’s in the grocery store or gas station,” she said with a laugh.