Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn

Hey everyone, hows it going? Now, you’re probably confused. A picture of some grass with rocks and toy animals? Whats going on? We’re setting the stage to teach groups of children how to go about the tide pools! Things are starting to pick up here at Yaquina Head! More interns have arrived from the Northwest Youth Corps and I’ll be working alongside with them as we prepare for the education programs we’ll have at the park. The Northwest Youth Corps is an organization based in Oregon that gives opportunities to young adults and students to learn and gain experience from working with various agencies involved with the natural environment. We, as interns at Yaquina Head, are currently training for the educational programs that the park provides to several schools and youth groups across the state and beyond! It’s one thing to learn about the wildlife and the outdoors, but it’s another to teach about it.

 

Our goals is to not only translate the natural world around us to children, but also demonstrate the fun and exciting things about it. This is an important task that many of us don’t think about, or think that is necessary. We, as scientists, can understand one another because we receive the years of education and training to observe, analyze and discuss the information we receive; in other words, we speak the same language. But many schoolchildren don’t speak in the same way as we do with our technical terms and complicated words, because they have yet to receive the same level of education. We’ll receive a diversity of groups ranging from K through 12th grade, each with a different level of understanding. So…what can we do? How do we help children today become better scientists? We can encourage them to explore the natural wonders of the world…because children are natural-born scientists themselves! Our curiosity of the world around has begged us to ask questions we’ve all asked before: Why is the sky blue? Why are sea urchins purple and spiky? How do fish breathe underwater? It’s our job not just to answer those questions but, more importantly, to help them discover the answer themselves!

 

Our educational programs seek to promote critical thinking, and I think that’s very important when it comes to education. Imagine receiving a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle only to find out that it’s already done and completed. It takes away the fun and challenge of figuring it out yourself. Sometimes giving the answer straightforward isn’t enough to engage schoolchildren. It’s the key goal to have them figure out the answers themselves: eureka! We guide them by asking questions that help them place another piece of the puzzle, slowly and gradually. And at the end, they get to see the whole picture of the puzzle and appreciate the beauty of it. That’s the gift of teaching.

Christian Cortez
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