FOCUS (Fostering Our Community’s Understanding of Science): Service Learning Experience

July 7, 2011


This course facilitates a partnership between area public schools and the University of Georgia. Students enrolled in this course will spend significant time in a local elementary school assisting a classroom teacher in science instruction. The course goals are as follows:

  • Improve the science experiences and science content knowledge of elementary students in the UGA area through relevant and hands-on science instruction
  • Increase awareness among elementary students about career opportunities related to the sciences
  • Provide experiences for students and teachers that will bring about more positive attitudes about science
  • Improve the content knowledge and confidence of local elementary teachers and foster sustained, positive changes in how they approach science
  • Develop a sense of community involvement for UGA students that will continue after graduation
  • Enhance the communication and leadership skills of UGA students



Students are required to attend a 3-hour orientation on the Saturday following the first week of classes. Students should start your work in their classrooms the second week of classes. The first week, the 3 hour requirement will be filled a bit differently than in other weeks. This involves meeting the teacher and at least two hours of observing the teacher’s classroom. The student and classroom teacher will need to plan the activities for the following week.

Students must devote a minimum of six hours each week to elementary school activities. This may include planning, preparing, and facilitating in the classroom. A minimum of three of those six hours must be in the classroom team-teaching science. The partnering teacher will assess you based on your effort, reliability, professionalism, and ability to communicate ideas. Please note students are expected to have 40 contact hours with students and teacher over 13 weeks. This is roughly 3 hours a week. If students are forced to miss a scheduled time in the classroom, they must contact their teacher and will need to arrange make up hours accordingly.

Students meet weekly with a group of fellow students led by educators and/or scientists. During these meetings, students will receive help with science lesson ideas and experiments, discuss experiences, get introduced to “hot topics” in science education, and most importantly, support each other.

Students submit journal entries according to the schedule provided (roughly one/week). The journal is expected to be thoughtful and reflective. There will be questions assigned to guide your first journal entry and your summary reflection.


Everyone in this course starts with the grade of ‘A’. To sustain that grade, student’s need to complete the following:

  • Facilitate science lessons in your elementary classroom a minimum of 3 hours per week for 13 weeks at the school. Your work on these lessons should reflect to the students and your partner teacher that you have prepared extensively for your teaching time in the classroom.
  • Attend and participate in 12 of 13 reflection sessions. Students are expected to be punctual and courteous at all times, and to be present in the classroom for the entire period.
  • Make a presentation about Project FOCUS to a UGA student group.
  • Submit 10 of possible eleven reflective journals on time.
  • Submit reflective summary of experience on time.
  • Receive excellent evaluations from the teacher-partner.
  • Make a best lesson presentation to other FOCUS participants.
  • As required, complete requirements for receiving honors or graduate credit.


10% Reflective Journals

10% Summary Reflection

20% Weekly Reflection Sessions

15% Overall Professionalism and Participation

30% Teacher evaluation

2.5% Best Lesson Presentation

2.5% UGA Club (or other public group) Presentation


Students are responsible for submitting a Reflective Journal Entry according to the organizational calendar. Entries must be submitted before the start of the reflection meetings. Please include the journal number on all submissions. All entries are to be typed. You should discuss your experiences in the classroom through your reflective journals. Some weeks the instructor will provide you with a specific journal prompt. Otherwise, the journals may be written using the following questions as a guideline. Type at least 1-page, single-spaced.

  • What significant learning events happened in your science classroom this week?
  • What caused them to happen?
  • What do you think about these occurrences? How do they affect you?
  • What was your role and what was your teacher’s role in the science lesson?
  • How is your presence benefiting the learning environment?
  • What are some difficulties in the process of schooling?

Students are expected to be thoughtful at all times. If for some reason you cannot or do not teach during the week, you still must submit a journal explaining the situation. Of the 11 possible weekly journal entries, students are required to submit 10. These will be rated on a five-point scale according to thoroughness and thoughtfulness and when totaled, will determine 20% of the final grade.


Additionally, students will submit one Summary of Experience at the end of the semester. Guiding questions will be provided to help structure the final summary. We expect these to be about 3 single spaced pages in length.


Students are required to attend 10 of the 11 reflection sessions scheduled for the semester. Reflection session grades are based on the number of sessions attended and participation. NOTE: Attendance implies your presence at the entire session! Grading as follows:


Three times during the semester, the partner teacher will be asked to provide an evaluation of FOCUS student performance. Students are not rated on their ability as a teacher, as much as they are for effort, professionalism, relationship with the teacher, and willingness to respond to the needs of the elementary students. A copy of the Teacher Evaluation Form is posted on the class eLC site.


Near the end of the semester, students are to make a short presentation of Project FOCUS work to one of the UGA student club meetings. This can be brief, but should inform peers of what we are accomplishing at the schools and your reaction to working there. Ideally, this will work as a recruitment tool for the following semester. Students will need to turn in an artifact (handout, brochure, etc) of this presentation to your reflection group leader. The grade for this is an all-or-nothing area.


During the semester, students will choose a favorite lesson taught at the elementary school. In a 5-minute presentation students will share this lesson with other FOCUS students along with a one page hand out, following a sample lesson plan template provided, that explains the principles behind the activity as well as how to implement it in a classroom. The handout should make it very easy for other FOCUS students to utilize your lesson plan. These pages will be added to the Project FOCUS website with previous best lesson plans and will be a resource for teachers and other FOCUS students. These presentations will occur over several reflection sessions around the midpoint of the semester.


This portion of the grade comprises an assessment of your professionalism and participation. This assessment will be based on your punctuality, attendance, and participation in reflection sessions, timely completion of assignments, and our communication with your partner teacher regarding your preparation, conduct, and representation of FOCUS and UGA. This may seem non descript, but if students are in danger of losing points in this area we will be sure to meet with you and point out any areas in which you need to improve.


See the instructor to discuss possible projects that will suffice to earn graduate or honors credit for the course. These projects must be approved by both Professor David Berle and your TA by the fourth week of class to receive credit. Reports and completion of the projects must be done by the last week of regular class.

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