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Rebecca Hartline, a science teacher at Belpre Middle School, is currently working with the College of Education and Russ College of Engineering and Computer Science in the STEAM grant project to assess the impact that games and simulations can have on student’s performance and learning. Upon entering her classroom, you instantly get a feeling that this is a fun class with lots of exciting activities. There are projects in various stages, and the room smelled of vinegar from an experiment that had been completed earlier in the day.
Ms. Hartline entered the field of education in a way that is different from many of her colleagues. While most enter due to a life changing experience or inspiring teacher, she entered because, frankly, she had tried everything else. Her first position in education was teaching math and within a year she had determined that she did not care for it. There was something very important missing – her spark and passion for the subject at hand. Hartline transferred to science the following year and immediately knew that science education was the right fit for her. After all, she had always been drawn to science because its tendency to seek out reasons and answers to important questions.
With all of the activities and student-centered assignments that are going on in the classroom, it is easy to see that Ms. Hartline favors a hands-on, constructivist approach when possible. She believes that the field of science education iscurrently at a crossroads and in a dangerous situation because of the stress and mandates put upon both the teachers and students by standardized tests. Furthermore, she worries that science is moving to a “mile wide and inch thick” mentality,which will only provide students with a very basic understanding of many topics.
Although she is concerned with recent changes in science education, Hartline feels that games and simulations will play a huge part in future education. Students are already moving in this direction on their free time, and now the only thing proving to be a problem is the apprehensive integration of technology within the classroom. Ms. Hartline, however, believes that the battle over technology is worth it. In her first implementation of a module game on the rock cycle, the average scores on students’ tests increased between ten to thirteen points throughout various classes.
With the introduction of educational games and the dedication of Ms. Hartline, great things are certainly in store for the students at Belpre Middle School.