Per tradition, students take over the classroom

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published November 8, 2011

 Harper Woods Middle School student David Gordon reads to second-grade students Kristian Phillips and Devin Greene during a recent tree day activity at Beacon Elementary.

Harper Woods Middle School student David Gordon reads to second-grade students Kristian Phillips and Devin Greene during a recent tree day activity at Beacon Elementary.

Photo by April Lehmbeck

HARPER WOODS — A new group of middle school students each year takes on one of their most challenging roles when they themselves become the teachers.

Every year, Harper Woods Middle School science teacher June Teisan and her students work on a unit about trees. Beacon Elementary second-grade students do their own lessons to coincide with the middle school’s, and then the older students spend a day teaching the younger ones some lessons on trees.

Recently, there was another tree day, and although the rain kept the students from being able to teach their lessons in the park, they were still able to set up shop in the elementary school.

“We’ve always had a backup plan for the rain,” Teisan said, adding that they’ve rarely had to use it over the years. “That means double the work for our students. It helps them understand how important it is to be prepared.”

The older students learn their lessons while preparing and teaching the younger ones, who are learning as well. It’s something Teisan has been doing for almost two decades now.

Usually, under fairer weather conditions, students can hunt for real leaves in the park. But in case of rain, like this time around, they have to change course and have two sets of plans for their lessons.

Despite the rain, the lessons were running smoothly the day of the event.

There were eight stations with four different lessons. The lessons included leaf rubbing, and looking at seeds and fruits.

During the preparations at Beacon, the younger students created leaf hats that they wore the day of the lessons.

“Most of them actually know more than the average second-grader,” said seventh-grade student Ja’Vaun Gresham. “They’re a lot smarter. It’s fun working with them.”

Gresham did admit though that, because of their age, they’re not always the quietest.

It’s a lesson in classroom management that the students seem to tackle each year, but overall the second-graders looked engaged and interested in what they were learning.