We’ve all had that moment… the time when you were working through a problem or situation and suddenly, you figure it out.
The “a-ha!” moment.
It’s even more meaningful when your kids have those “jaw-dropping” moments.
Educators at St. James Academy are constantly looking for opportunities to foster “a-ha!” moments in the classroom. So today, we’re taking a peek inside two of their science classrooms to see what that looks like.
The “A-ha!” Moment: Science “Sparks” Student’ Curiosity at St. James Academy
Science in the Second Grade Classroom
“I believe that it is my role as the teacher to ignite passion in my students and support them in exploring those passions,” said second grade teacher Alison Glace. “As often as I can, I try to facilitate experiences where students can make their own discoveries rather than instilling my knowledge upon them from the front of the classroom.”
During science lessons, students in her class are typically gathered in small groups collaboratively working through the steps of the scientific method.
“The scientific method feeds beautifully into the inquiry-based learning approach because students are starting with a question, making a hypothesis, and then working through the steps to discover the answer,” said Ms. Glace. “We are teaching our students how to be scientists, engineers, explorers, problem-solvers, mathematicians, and so much more.”
One of her favorite units to teach is one on magnets because it’s intentionally designed to be very hands-on. In fact, it may even look like students are playing at first… but in reality, they are making meaningful discoveries. They are figuring out that the ends of the magnets are the strongest parts. Then they are noticing that opposite poles attract and like poles repel.
“The ‘a-ha” moment can be unmistakably seen on a student’s face when it lights up with joy as he or she discovers or creates something new,” said Ms. Glace. “Whatever the reason may be, you will never see that face by handing a student a piece of information. It is much more meaningful when students reach those ‘a-ha” moments on their own.”
Science in the Middle School Classroom
In James Walsh’s middle school science classroom, students are trying to determine the identity of a rock sample.
How? By using basic lab equipment to find the mass, volume, density, and hardness of the rock sample. They will also use databases to find reliable and peer-reviewed information to supplement their own observations. In the end, they’ll need to submit a report that documents the process and actions they have taken to determine the sample’s identity.
“Inquiry-based learning is a teaching method in which you present the students with a “question” and then guide them through the steps and skills needed for them to uncover the answer on their own,” said Mr. Walsh. That’s precisely what students are doing through the rock sample assignment.
Inquiry is the heart of every lesson Mr. Walsh teaches, but especially during his favorite unit — when students explore Newton’s laws of motion. As the name suggests, students get to move and be moved as they sort out the relationship between force, mass, and acceleration.
Mr. Walsh credits St. James Academy’s flexible curriculum for helping to foster ‘a-ha’ moments in his classroom.
“In some cases, it is the classic jaw-dropped hands in the air revelation, and other times it is the slow and steady improvement in assessment scores,” said Mr. Walsh.
See The “A-ha!” Moment in Action
Want to see the ‘a-ha’ moment in action? Join (cool) progeny at St. James Academy for our Annual Halloween Family Fest on October 26 from 3 PM – 5 PM! There will be spooky science stations, trick-or-treating, a mad scientist show, and more! LEARN MORE
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our School Spotlight Series. Each week, we will spotlight one of our partner schools to give you a glimpse into what learning looks like on their campus. To learn more about St. James Academy, visit their directory listing in our Independent School Directory. Want to become a school partner? Email us.