It’s been a busy summer for three MCLA alumnae who were employed by Pittsfield’s Berkshire Museum’s rapidly expanding education program: they taught area youth about electricity and magnetism as part of the GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) Science in the Summer™ program.
Courtney Keefe ’16, who majored in history and secondary education, taught first through fifth graders at Conte Middle School in North Adams.
“The curriculum is based on hands-on activities in which the students actively work together to construct experiments and see how what they built reacts,” Keefe explained. “We built electroscopes, string instruments, circuits and racecars!”
This fall, Keefe will head to Hoosac Valley Middle and High School to teach English. Although she studied to teach grades eight through 12 at MCLA, she also learned how to adapt lessons to accommodate different age groups.
“The skill sets I obtained really helped me in working with younger children,” Keefe said.
Berkshire Museum also hired Betsy Baczek ’15, who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in art from MCLA, to teach third graders at Muddybrook Elementary School in Great Barrington this summer.
“Art and science both value creativity, experimentation, discovery and learning,” Baczek explained. “It’s important to be able to show a lot of these concepts visually, especially in a way that allows the kids to be directly involved with what they’re learning about.”
Ashley Wetherell Barrett – who will complete her M.Ed at MCLA next year, was assigned to teach a diverse group of children in Kindergarten through the fourth grade at Crosby Elementary School in Pittsfield.
“When students participate in science – especially science experiments – they create artistic projects that they can feel proud of,” Barrett said.
“The best part,” she continued, “was seeing their excited reactions to all the activities and experiments. There is no better feeling in the world to me. It is something that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.”
Having MCLA nearby is invaluable to the Berkshire Museum, according to Craig Langlois, director of education and public programs at the Museum.
“In the short time that all three MCLA students have been employed here, it has been amazing to see their level of comprehension of the material, classroom management skills, and most importantly their ownership of the responsibility of being an educator. In a nutshell, they get it, and are a great support to me and my position,” Langlois said.
GSK Science in the Summer™ brings free, hands-on science lessons to elementary-aged students. To mark its 30th anniversary this year, the program partnered with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and 20 science centers and museums across the nation. Berkshire Museum is the only program-granted site in Massachusetts.