Field Experiences Offer Education Students Valuable Real-World Training Opportunities Monday, December 6, 2021
"It is one thing to write the perfect lesson plan, but getting to use it with actual students helps bring all the pieces together."
Point Park University's School of Education prioritizes experiential learning, offering students a variety of field experiences prior to their student-teaching placements. In doing so, students build confidence, character and gain a deeper understanding of the teaching profession. This semester, Christal Edmunds, Ph.D., professor of education, connected students in her Teaching Social Studies Methods class with a weekly field experience at Wee Care Children's Center in Heidelberg.
"My teaching experience at Wee Care has enriched what we learned in the classroom by allowing us to actually put our lessons to the test," said Britney Adrian '23, an early childhood education and special education dual major and Blackhawk High School alumna. "We were able to see if our lessons were appropriate and made sense to the children. We were able to understand what lessons could be intertwined into a social studies lesson in a fun way."
Throughout the semester, students designed and facilitated their own lesson plans at the school, working with classes of 4- and 5-year-old children.
"My favorite lesson that we completed was a 'Community Helpers' activity," said Kamryn Russell '22, an early childhood education and special education dual major. "We read a book about the various types of helpers who are involved in all of our communities. We provided cut-out hats of the different kinds of helpers for students to color and make their own. One student chose a chef, another chose a nurse, and so on. This gave them the opportunity to learn about the people who help make their town a safe and enjoyable place to live."
The week before Thanksgiving, Point Park students read books related to the holiday to Wee Care's young learners and completed themed arts and crafts activities, including colorful construction paper turkeys.
"This is the first in-person field experience that I have had at Point Park where I have actually been able to teach students," Russell said. "Last year, I tutored online, but I have been waiting for real action. This experience has pushed me to grow as a student and a future educator."
While the students facilitated their Thanksgiving lesson, Lily Fields '22, a 4th-8th grade math major, and Danielle Nuttridge '22, a 4th-8th grade English major, were 20 minutes across town teaching 40 Neil Armstrong Middle School students about the historic Coverdale mine strike at the Bethel Park Schoolhouse Arts and History Center.
Fields, a Palmyra Area High School alumna, said the opportunity came about after Edmunds' Teaching Social Studies Methods class toured the Heinz History Center. After connecting with a program director at the museum, she and Nuttridge pitched a proposal for the local history lesson to the Bethel Park Historical Society and Bethel Park School District and were matched with a group of gifted students ranging from 4th-6th grade.
"The students came into the experience with a lot of prior knowledge about the mines in the Bethel Park area, so our field experience provided us with opportunities to alter our instruction to what the students need, a skill we have learned about extensively in class," Fields said.
The School of Education's focus on providing hands-on teaching experiences enriches what students learn on on campus, Fields said.
"It is one thing to write the perfect lesson plan, but getting to use it with actual students helps bring all the pieces together," she said.
"There is nothing that can totally prepare you for being in front of a room of 40 middle-schoolers except doing it," said Nuttridge, a Montour High School alumna. "While there is much to read and learn as an education major, there's nothing more beneficial than being in a classroom around students. This experience was particularly enriching because I had never prepared an event or lesson of this caliber before. I learned a lot about planning, organizing and executing a field trip."