Innovative Middle School Science Teaching

Last week, The New York Times had a feature article on middle school teaching entitled, “For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills.” The article featured a courageous and outstanding teacher, Corinne Kaufman, who teaches mathematics to middle school students at Seth Low, a large middle school in Bensonhurst, NY. The article also discussed the current dilemma facing middle school teacher preparation. You might want to read the article to better appreciate the work of middle school teachers.

Then that same week, the alumni magazine from my undergraduate college, Bridgewater State College arrived, and the featured a story was about a middle school teacher, Warren Phillips, who also graduated from Bridgewater, and now teaches at Plymouth Community Intermediate School (Massachusetts). One of the powerful ideas in the article was how Mr. Phillips, and in the NY Times article, Ms. Kaufman, have managed to teach successfully for many years, and how they have developed programs that work for their students.

In Warren Phillips case, he was named by USA Today to the 2006 All-USA Teaching Team, and besides this award, had received numerous awards which he used to funds projects at his school. You can visit his website and see the nature of his work.

Of particular interest was a program that he started in which middle school students work together as a community of learners to give back to the school and help others. The program, Helping Others While Learning (HOWL) features students creating service learning projects. Service learning, according to Mr. Phillips site is “a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development.

There are many resources on service learning, and as advocated at this blog, science education that is inquiry oriented, and involves students in planning and carrying out learning activities leads to successful learning.

Teachers such as Warren Phillips model the kind of teaching that is innovative and student-centered. What other types of teaching have you found to be effective at the middle school level? Let us hear from you.