The lesson is featured in the January 2019 issue of the journal Science and Children and focuses on problem-based learning (PBL) in the elementary science classroom.
Before joining the faculty at Elon as an assistant professor of biology, Jessica Merricks pursued her passion for science outreach via a number of different pathways.
She taught high school earth science and biology, shared science outreach activities with the general public, and even mentored elementary science teachers during the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). It was during this time with elementary teachers and students that Merricks designed several new lessons in alignment with NGSS. These new lessons allowed students to learn important scientific concepts through real-world problem solving (e.g. “problem-based learning” or "PBL").
In collaboration with National Board Certified teacher Deanna Lankford of The University of Missouri (retired), Merricks published the 4th-grade earth science lesson, “City Planners at Work,” in the January 2019 issue of the journal Science and Children. The lesson incorporates research-backed strategies and techniques designed to support students as they delve into the concepts of soil composition, slope, weathering, and erosion. The lesson centers around a single problem: the students need to find the best location to start a garden on their school grounds.
Throughout the multi-day investigation, the students gather information, design hypotheses, collect data in the field and laboratory, and present their results in a formal proposal to their principal. The lesson is designed to be flexible enough for elementary teachers to modify components to fit the needs of their students.
Contributing quality science material for public consumption is a passion that Merricks will continue to pursue as part of her scholarship and service at Elon. She hopes to continue her work in this area with elementary education majors and local teachers in Alamance County.