In a recent episode of Science Connections: The Podcast, veteran middle school science teacher Ryan Renee Rudkin sat down with host Eric Cross to discuss ways educators can get community members involved in the science classroom.
You can access the full episode here, but we’ve pulled out Ryan’s top three teacher takeaways for you to use in your classroom today!
1. Ask your community to get involved.
Ryan’s creative instructional approach extends beyond the walls of her classroom. She finds value in enlisting the support of community members as featured classroom guest speakers. These valued guest speakers share their real-world experiences to help students relate to science content.
Some examples of Ryan’s community partnerships:
- A local meteorologist’s hometown celebrity status helped students transfer the knowledge learned during a sixth-grade weather unit.
- A cardiac nurse practitioner led an actual heart dissection with Ryan’s students.
- A nutritionist joined as a guest speaker during the metabolism unit.
When Eric asked how Ryan was able to identify so many willing community members and parents to come speak to her students, she said, “People want to come and talk to kids. It doesn’t hurt to ask.” Ryan utilizes social media, PTA groups, and family surveys. “You just have to get creative. Look in your community and see what you have.”
2. Increase caregiver engagement.
Ryan understands there are various barriers that may affect her students’ attendance and classroom engagement. Because of this understanding, she extends grace to her students and prioritizes making them feel valued. This is exemplified by Ryan calling students’ caregivers every Friday. Students are able to listen to the positive conversations and look forward to them every Friday. These positive touchpoints establish a strong caregiver-teacher relationship and open the door for dialogue between students and families as they celebrate student success.
3. Get students excited about showcasing their knowledge of science content.
One of Ryan’s top goals in her classroom is to create an enjoyable learning environment and to do so, she encourages educators to be resourceful. “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” she says. “There are so many things out there that you can borrow and make it your own.”
To keep students excited about science content, Ryan implements activities like Science Olympiad, an in-person or remote science competition that provides standards-based challenges; and March Mammal Madness, an annual tournament of simulated combat competition among animals that utilize scientific information to educate students about inter-species interactions.
With over a decade of experience in the classroom, Ryan exemplifies how creativity, resourcefulness, and passion for learning can positively affect student engagement in the classroom.
For a more in-depth look, listen to the full episode to hear Eric and Ryan discussing the importance of connecting with students and caregivers in the science classroom:
Science Connections: The Podcast featuring veteran middle school teacher Ryan Renee Rudkin.