First-grader Peter Graffam, 6, receives a science lesson from UNE sophomore Anna Stowell as his mother, Jessica Chaples-Graffam watches during Family Science Night at Biddeford Primary School on Tuesday night. Through an experiment, Stowell taught Graffam about water surface tension. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

First-grader Peter Graffam, 6, receives a science lesson from UNE sophomore Anna Stowell as his mother, Jessica Chaples-Graffam watches during Family Science Night at Biddeford Primary School on Tuesday night. Through an experiment, Stowell taught Graffam about water surface tension. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — It’s no secret that investing in knowledge pays the best dividends and student teachers at the University of New England found that out first hand when they conceived and led a Family Science Night at Biddeford Primary School on Tuesday evening.

UNE and the Biddeford School Department have a working relationship in training new teachers and events like the Family Science Night not only benefit student teachers by giving them practical experience in interacting with school-age children, it also provides Biddeford students with one-on-one time with future teachers and helps keep them engaged with the curriculum and motivated to learn.

Krysten Gorrivan, a Biddeford Primary School second-grade teacher on sabbatical this year, is working as a Teacher Educator Fellow at UNE and teaching three classes in the education department to pre-service teachers while sharing her expertise with future educators.

Gorrivan said that the Family Science Night was a direct result of a project that UNE students were doing in her Teaching Elementary Science Course, geared for teaching children in Kindergarten through eighth grade.

“The UNE students partnered up to collaborate in presenting a lesson and experiment to students in Kindergarten through fifth grade,” she said. “The Biddeford School Department has established a commitment toward STEM education and this correlated with those goals.”  

According to Gorrivan, UNE students agreed before the event that she would be looking for professionalism, preparedness, presentation, and student engagement from them at the Family Science Night.

“I feel that they surpassed any and all expectations I had,” she said. “They were so engaged with the students, and even parents were giving the feedback that they learned something from the UNE students.” 

She said that when the families had left and everyone was cleaning up, she gathered the students and told them that she couldn’t be more proud of the impact they left on families that attended the event.

“They were all glowing with pride because of the effort they put in and the result of the interactions with the students and families,” Gorrivan said.

Kristen Vandissel is a graduate student at UNE working toward obtaining a master’s degree in education. She participated in the Family Science Night and helped guide children through a fun experiment called Marshmallow Shooters.

“The purpose of this experiment is to teach the kids about force in motion,” Vandissel said.

She said that she wants to become a teacher because she enjoys conecting with students and passing on knowledge to them.

“It’s very rewarding to watch children grow and have that ‘aha moment’ when they undersatand something for the first time,” Vandissel said.

Ernie Dore has three kids who are students at Biddeford Prmary School and said he was happy to bring his children to the Family Science Night and watch them having fun while learning about science.

“”I like that these are hand-on activities,” he said. “Even I learned something new tonight and that is that slime is both a solid and a liquid. I didn’t know that before.”

Gorrivan said that UNE students knew from the beginning of her course at UNE that this Family Science Night would be a part of the course expectation.  

“Through the course we have learned about engagement in science activities and the inquiry-based format for a science lesson plan,” she said. “They worked on these presentations for about two weeks with time in class and meeting with partners on their own time. Much of what they did was based on the learning objectives of their lesson plans and what they wanted the children to walk away remembering.”

There were 24 UNE student teachers attending the event and several Biddeford Primary School teachers also on hand.  Each student teacher only had about 10 minutes with each group so they understood that they needed to make an impact quickly.  

“We wanted the children to be able to see as many of the 12 stations as possible in order to learn as much as they could,” Gorrivan said.  

As a mentor, Gorrivan said there were a few things she wanted her UNE students to learn through participating in the Family Science Night.

“I want them to see how important it is to be creative with their planning in order to motivate and engage their students to learn. Science and Social Studies are two subjects that really catch those students that otherwise feel disconnected and uninterested in school and in their education,” she said. “We teachers need to embrace these content areas and make learning fun for the students.

“One parent said to me last night ‘They are learning so much and they don’t even know it because they are having fun.’ In this time of data and testing in education, teachers can feel that their independence and creativity can be stifled,” Gorrivan said. “We need to use these content areas to hook these students and deepen their love of learning while they are having fun. They can become lifelong learners because of an amazing science lesson. This is what I want my UNE students to walk away with.”

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reaahed at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at [email protected]


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