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PIE: Partners in Education and Action
University and elementary students collaborate with hands-on learning.
Two UMD students pass out cups of water to blindfolded fourth graders. "Use your senses," one of the UMD students says. "Is your water clean, or do you smell something?" The children laugh as they smell aromas of garlic, salt, coffee, water, green food coloring, and coffee creamer. Hands shoot up and the kids bounce in their seats, eager to shout out the answers.
This is a Partners in Education, or PIE, classroom. The kids "have a hands on enthusiasm for learning," says Eva Robinson, PIE coordinator and student in the Masters in Environmental Education program.
The PIE program is a non-profit education program that offers free outreach to Twin Ports schools.
UMD, Minnesota Sea Grant, and the Great Lakes Aquarium have collaborated to support it. UMD provides the volunteer student teachers, Sea Grant provides the funding, and the aquarium provides the curriculum. The program material is created for Minnesota science teachers and is aligned to meet Minnesota science standards. "They are really, really high quality lessons," says Eva. "The teachers love it."
The curriculum is different every semester, and always takes a local perspective. Often it directly relates to Lake Superior. The whole program encourages students to make personal connections to the material.
Elementary classes aren't the only ones who benefit from PIE.
UMD students gain valuable teaching experience in a classroom. This voluntary program is beneficial for any undergraduate or graduate students studying education or science. The education majors get exposure to quality science lessons and the science majors practice outreach and communication skills.
Eva makes the components of the program run smoothly. She recruits volunteers from UMD and trains them through three or four sessions in education, communication, and the science involved in the program.
Originally from central Wisconsin, Eva was involved with Teach for America in Miami, Fla., and studied abroad in Chile. She was inspired to work with students and returned to the Midwest to study environmental education at UMD. "I want to help set kids up for success and motivate them," says Eva.
Eva is able to achieve her goal as PIE coordinator. She brings college students into elementary classes with relatable, hands-on lessons. "It's great when I can spark a kid's passion for learning."