Gathering in five different groups spread across the room, the students in Mrs. Sharon Woodley’s class began reading and researching.
For this project, however, the kindergartners had some extra help.
Woodley’s kindergartners welcomed several Plainview High School juniors into their classroom that is nuzzled in the northern corner of Plainview Primary Elementary. The eight high schoolers strolled into the classroom shortly after the young students had split into groups to begin studying animals. The class started talking about animals earlier this semester and just learned what vertebrates and invertebrates are and how they differ. Now, Woodley said the class was split into five different groups to study five subsets of vertebrates: birds, reptiles, fish, mammals and amphibians.
For their research, the students visited the library where they received non-fiction books containing details about the subgroups. Once the students accumulate all the needed facts and details, they will present their information to the class next week.
But before they could get deep into their newly found research, the students needed some assistance.
The high schoolers, assigned as the students’ “research assistants,” made the short walk across campus from zoology class to help the students by reading with them and taking notes of their findings. Woodley said having the high schoolers help with the project has been an annual event, but this year is the first time she can recall the high school having a zoology class. With the high schoolers also studying animals, Woodley saw an opportunity.
“In the last couples of months and the first semester we were learning about all the different animals,” Kobi Moore, Plainview High School junior, said. “We kind of just took it to a smaller level and talked to kids about what we’ve been learning but just on an easier level.”
Moore and the other high schoolers were delegated to different groups and began diligently perusing the books for information on their assigned group. Helping the kindergartners with their research was particularly special for Moore, as he was in their shoes nearly a decade ago.
“It’s always cool to get to go back to where you started,” Moore, who had Woodley as his kindergarten teacher, said. “That’s the class I learned to read in so it’s cool to get to help those kids learn to read and do fun stuff like we got to do today.”
Sitting around their research assistants and hanging on their every word, the kindergartners were zoned in on their research and determined to learn everything they could about their animal subgroup. Hands filled the space above the tables as students raised their hands, signaling questions for the high schoolers and the sound of books being read and discussed filled the colorful kindergarten room. Woodley said the students have always enjoyed the visit from the high schoolers.
“They’re very engaged,” Woodley said with a smile. “It’s a change up from me just teaching them. With this, they’re getting to learn on their own and learn as a group.”
Woodley said the research assistants will make a few more appearances to the kindergarteners’ room, with a visit planned today and the high schoolers will also help the students present their findings to the class using posters, multimedia and a fiction book featuring the animal subgroup their group discussed.
The outside research help is a change of pace from the usual, traditional style of learning, something Woodley said is healthy for the children. While the kindergartners, wide eyed at their new friends, were busy absorbing the material and becoming experts of their animal subgroup, the research assistants were also learning a thing or two sitting at the minuscule tables in Woodley’s classroom.
“Sometimes you learn more from teaching,” Moore said. “It’s just like going back to the basics. I was reading one of the little books and I read something I didn’t know so I guess I learned something today also.”