Williams Students Help Develop, Teach Fourth-Grade Science Curriculum

Media contact:  Jennifer Swoap, Williams College Elementary Outreach, [email protected], (413) 597-4395.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., November 29, 2012—Fourth-grade students and teachers at Williamstown, Brayton, and Greylock Elementary Schools have engaged this fall in a newly developed science curriculum created in collaboration with Williams College. The curriculum focuses on the subject of “Energy” and was written last summer by Sarah Gottesman ’14 and Mpaza Kapembwa ’15 under the guidance of Williams Elementary Outreach Coordinator Jennifer Swoap, Experiential Education Coordinator Paula Consolini, and fourth-grade teachers from the three elementary schools.

Weekly lessons are taught by Williams students who work for the Williams Elementary Outreach Program (WEO). In addition to facilitating discussions and interactive experiments on topics ranging from renewable and non-renewable energy resources to waves and calories, the Williams students have incorporated iPad technology applications in their science classes as well.  The WEO program received a grant from the Verizon Foundation last spring that was used in part to purchase the 13 iPads being used in the North Adams schools.

Fourth-graders at Brayton and Greylock have used the iPads in different capacities since October and are currently creating presentations on the iPads based on four areas of energy study: hydropower, oil, nuclear, and solar energy. As part of these projects, the elementary students conducted interviews via Skype with professionals in the energy field in order to learn more about their research topics.

The “energy experts” with whom the students have consulted include Williams alumni Malcolm Smith, Charley Stevenson, and Tom Kimbis; Zilkha Center staff members Stephanie Boyd, Amy Johns, and Todd Holland; and Williams Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy Pia Kohler. With assistance from Williams student teachers, the fourth-grade students have all had the opportunity to write questions pertaining to their research topic and then pose their questions during a video call. Students used the iPads for the Skype sessions and are also using an application on the iPads, “Explain Everything,” as the platform for their final presentations.

The families of participating students are invited to a presentation night at Brayton School on Monday, Dec. 10, from 6 p.m to 7 p.m., at which time the fourth-graders will showcase their work on the iPads.  Students will also give in-school presentations on Dec. 11 and 12, which will be recorded and aired on the North Adams Public Access Television station. The new Fourth Grade “Energy” lessons created by Gottesman and Kapembwa are posted online at: http://experiential.williams.edu/4th-grade-curriculum/ .

For more information, please contact Jennifer Swoap, Williams College Elementary Outreach, [email protected], (413) 597-4395.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.

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