Dr. Corrine Hinton, Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M University – Texarkana, and three university alumni and current educators, Stephanie Chickadel, Kristen Childress, and Amanda Nix recently published an article in Currents in Teaching and Learning, an online education journal published by Worcester State University.

According to a press release, their article, “Extending Experiential Learning Opportunities in Teacher Education: Connecting Preservice Teachers and their Communities through Project-Based Collaborations” appears in the journal’s October 2018 special issue on project-based learning.

While enrolled in an education methods class together, Chickadel, Childress, and Nix collaborated with Discovery Place, an interactive museum for children located in downtown Texarkana, as a service learning project to help the museum improve its attractiveness to area educators. As the article explains, the women, then preservice teachers, helped to map the concepts from several exhibits to education standards in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

Chickadel, now a high school science teacher at Queen City High School, explained, “Our project began as a way to help a local museum’s exhibits become more accessible to teachers in the area. During this process, I developed a deeper understanding of state standards and the importance of engaging students in hands-on learning activities. I hope readers are inspired to take on similar projects in their areas.”

When asked why collaborating with the museum was important for her, Childress, a teacher at Queen City Middle School, responded, “My goal for our project is for our students to get a hands-on learning experience. I want students to see that learning can be anywhere other than inside a classroom. I also wanted students to grow as individuals while gaining a sense of community and involvement during the process.”

With Dr. Hinton’s assistance, Chickadel, Childress, and Nix worked to revise their project into an article proposal. After their proposal was accepted, they worked for another year on expanding and polishing the piece. “I had Stephanie, Amanda, and Kristen in an advanced writing course a couple of years ago, so I knew they were capable and dedicated writers,” said Hinton. “Over the last year, the work we’ve done together to bring a two-page project report to this published piece is tremendous, and I think it will really help educators and teacher educators re-think community collaborations as valuable opportunities for teaching and learning,”

Amanda Nix, who recently moved from Texarkana to Alabama where she is teaching English to English Language Learners, shared her hopes: “This project demonstrates the value and opportunities our community holds for our teachers to expand their lessons and for students to become more engaged in their learning. I hope readers obtain a deeper understanding and appreciation for allowing students the chance to make text-to-real-world connections and how community resources can become part of a teacher’s classroom.”

Experiential learning is the focus of Texas A&M University – Texarkana’s Quality Enhancement Plan, a five-year initiative that focuses on expanding and improving a specific facet of student learning. The museum project described in their article was both experiential learning for the three alumni during their education program while paving the way for experiential learning opportunities for young visitors of the museum.

Their article, “Extending Experiential Learning Opportunities in Teacher Education: Connecting Preservice Teachers and their Communities through Project-Based Collaborations” can be viewed online through the Currents in Teaching and Learning website at www.worcester.edu/Currents

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