Rocket science is fun at Roger Williams MS

Courtney Parenteau, science teacher at RWMS and Daniel Rodriguez position a rocket for launch as a culminating activity for the class’s planetary science unit.

Courtney Parenteau, science teacher at RWMS and Daniel Rodriguez position a rocket for launch as a culminating activity for the class’s planetary science unit.

Proving that rocket science is not just for aeronautical wizards, sixth-graders at Roger Williams Middle School (RWMS) transformed the field behind their school into a supersized launch pad as they engaged in a fun culminating activity for a unit on planetary science.

Courtney Parenteau, first-year science teacher at RWMS, collaborated with her consulting teacher Kathleen Mariano Fleenor of the TRAIN Teacher Induction Program, to launch small rockets with her ESL science class.

In the planetary science unit, Parenteau engaged her students in several inquiry labs to learn about moon rocks, moon features and space travel to deepen their understanding of science concepts. They learned to think like a scientist and talk and write about their experiences using science vocabulary.

Patrick Dorcus, a science teacher at RWMS, shows students how to set up their rockets for launching. Dorcus was also supported by the Teacher Induction Program when he arrived at the district as a new teacher.

Patrick Dorcus, a science teacher at RWMS, shows students how to set up their rockets for launching. Dorcus was also supported by the Teacher Induction Program when he arrived at the district as a new teacher.

“We learned about solar systems, Apollo missions and moon rocks,” said Ysauri Polonia. “It was interesting and fun at the same time because we learned how our planets were formed, the Astrobelt and space travel.”

She was looking forward to launching her rocket as she waited her turn. “I’ve never done this before,” Polonia said.

Fleenor had purchased the rockets through a Feinstein grant when she was a science teacher at the former Bridgham Middle School and donated the leftovers to Parenteau’s class. Students were excited to launch their rockets, which whirred into the air, leaving large clouds of smoke behind. As each rocket fired, the class scanned the sky looking to see how high it would reach before landing in the field.

“Students love to learn about space,” said Fleenor. “They expanded their vocabulary and their knowledge of science concepts.”

“As a new teacher, the mentoring program helped me to reflect and improve my practice to better serve the students,” said Parenteau. “Having someone to talk through my lessons with maximized the learning in my classroom.”

Esmerlin Ramirez is joined by her teacher Courtney Parenteau (right), a first-year science teacher at RWMS, and her consulting teacher Kathleen Mariano Fleenor (center).

Esmerlin Ramirez is joined by her teacher Courtney Parenteau (right), a first-year science teacher at RWMS, and her consulting teacher Kathleen Mariano Fleenor (center).

The Teacher Retention and Induction Network (TRAIN), in which Providence’s consulting teachers serve, currently offers two types of services: teacher induction and peer assistance. Consulting teachers serve as coaches to new, beginning and experienced K-12 teachers who participate in the Teacher Induction Program (TIP) as well as those in Peer Assistance and Review (PAR). Consulting teachers have varied backgrounds and expertise in K-12 education, including English as a Second Language and Special Education. They receive intensive educator evaluator training from the Rhode Island Innovation Consortium and Teachscape as well as three years of coaching training from the New Teacher Center, funded by the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Providence’s Teacher and Principal Induction Programs are led by Nkoli Onye, executive director of performance management in PPSD’s Office of Human Capital.

“Courtney is a passionate science teacher that invited me to co-teach with her, which is one of the strategies that we provide to our participating teachers to grow their practice,” said Fleenor. “By assisting Courtney and other participating teachers in the New Teacher Induction Program, we are improving instruction for our students.”

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