Dawson County Middle School has partnered with a local college to roll out new classes for both schools' students.
In a partnership with the University of North Georgia, the middle school has invited Joe Covert, assistant professor of science education, and his students into its classrooms for a new program to teach sixth-graders about science.
"Professor Covert and I started talking about a partnership and he got with the university and was able to offer this class," said Mark Merges, principal of Dawson County Middle School. "We had talked about ways to improve our science test scores and I thought he might be able to help out with his students, who in turn would get practical experience teaching students."
The university students come in as part of a class, "Earth Science for Future Middle School Teachers."
"What we're doing with this program is giving them an opportunity to practice teaching science," Covert said. "One of things we wanted to do, and that Dr. Merges has been so gracious to allow us to do, is give [the student teachers] the opportunity to take some of the things we've done in our class and then redeliver it to the sixth-graders."
In its first year, the joint venture has, so far, seen three successful classes in the middle school, with student teachers being taught the lessons by Covert, who then return to the classes to teach the sixth-graders.
"I taught the college students the various activities, such as learning the lunar phases and then I said, ‘It's your turn,'" Covert said. "We broke the student teachers into groups of two or three and then they made that lesson their own, based on ways they look at the topic."
It's a program that Merges said is working well for the students.
"The students always have a lot of energy, but are loosening up the more they get to know the student teachers. They are responding really well and engaged in all of the activities in various classes," he said. "This kind of stuff is hands on and beyond the tests. It supports the curriculum that we are doing, but it's not the typical kind of textbook and lecture class."