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This summer I have been very fortunate to work as a Teaching Assistant for the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern. They offer programs for gifted students in a wide range of content areas. The course I’m teaching is focused in Physics, which is clearly not my content expertise. Excitingly, they offered me the position because they thought I’d be a good fit with the instructor and that it would be a good challenge for me. The role of the Teaching Assistant is to facilitate small group work, assist with evaluations, and lead study sessions. It’s a good amount of responsibility and it has also afforded me the ability to really take some time to learn from my classroom instructor. It has been an extremely fulfilling experience thus far.
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The first week of the program focused pretty intensely on team work. The first project was to build a card tower. My instructor is great at making things competitive, but then debriefing with the students to discuss what lessons we learn when we don’t win. The second project was to design bridges for efficiency (you want your bridge to weight the least while holding the most mass). It was amazing to see students so focused on the creativity of the design portion and the precision in the build portion. I was really impressed with the final products too!
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The second week had students designing and building their own CO2 cars for racing. I also built my own, hence the lovely duck car pictured above. The students again used design specifications to draw their model, trace cuts on the wood, file down the designs, sand down the surfaces, and then paint their final product.
Race day was today and I was surprised and delighted to see how many students walked away from “losing” with a smile on their face. The students were proud of their work and had something very tangible to carry home with them! I’m excited to begin our second session. Now that I’ve spent three weeks immersed in the content, I’m confident that my teaching skills will continue to improve throughout the process!