Tips and Guidelines for Teaching the YTA Program
Science is not fun, it is hard work, fascinating, exciting, useful…..
Once and a while, in an excited manner, the YTA instructor should ask the children, “Is science and technology fun?!”. Usually, in the beginning of the program, the children will respond, “Yes!”. Then the instructor should say, “No”, to the shock of the children. Next explain that doing well in these fields is not fun, it is hard work, but also interesting, fascinating, and very useful. This exercise is performed to impress upon the children that succeeding in science and technology is hard work, but it is also incredibly rewarding in ways that are different than the fun associated with video games, sports, amusement parks and other really fun activities.
Children must talk the talk, of science and technology
A key component of the YTA program is that each child must take part in thinking about and describing the basic concept being taught in each lesson, using the language of science and technology. Each lesson lists the Key Words to be utilized by children when they participate in the discussion. Any extra time available in a session, should be utilized to give the students additional experience describing parts of the lesson using the language and concepts learned during that lesson. Selecting different children throughout the lesson to take part in the activities and the discussions also allows the YTA Instructor to maintain the attention of the maximum number of students.
A successful lesson
Each lesson in the YTA program focuses on a single but important basic scientific or technological concept. A successful lesson is always one in which children have taken part in the discussion of that basic concept. A lesson's success is not determined by a quiz or a test on the material. Success is achieved by getting the children to think, with and without speaking those logical thoughts, and with or without achieving a thorough understanding of the scientific concept being discussed. In the current environment dominated by standardized tests, this may seem a bit shocking. But logical thinking is a skill, just like riding a bike, that must be practiced and developed to achieve its full potential. It is a skill, especially in children, that YTA believes is much more important to develop than adding information to the memory banks for future recall. For instructors, think of it this way when during a lesson a child cannot get an answer after 10 seconds of thinking; if a child falls off a bike does the parent say, "oh well you are not good at riding bikes so let's do something else?" Obviously not. Get the child back on the bike, again and again, and somehow their brain eventually figures out how to ride. Same with thinking.
Using models and illustrations to understand science
While it is difficult to see some of the basic structures in science, such as an atom or a neuron, it is easier to use these entities to understand the world or predict the future (the major goals of science) if we picture them with illustrations or models. YTA lessons utilize models as well. However when a model is used, try to ask the children whether a neuron or atom, for example, really looks like our model. Students should feel free to use models to help them think about the world around us, but also realize its limitations, and perhaps ask, "I wonder what it is really like?".
Benefits of going over the career path to becoming a scientist or technology professional
In encouraging children to consider science and technology careers, it is important for them to have a realistic view of the type and length of training that is typically involved in attaining success in these fields. In this regard, it is important for YTA Instructors to take time during 1 or more lessons to describe the educational and professional steps science and technology professionals complete to achieve professional success. This information frequently provides children a previously unknown, positive and realistic view of what it takes to succeed in these fields, increasing their likelihood of successfully pursuing careers in science and technology.
Supplies and planning ahead
Some lessons cannot be completed within the targeted 45 minutes, or even 60 minutes, without preparing supplies before the instructor enters the classroom. Trading cards should be printed, the child's name filled in, and signed by the YTA Instructor that will give the class, before the class starts. Sets of supplies (such as the clay spheres and toothpicks in the Table of Elements lesson) would take much too long to have the students prepare in the classroom. And when preparing in advance, the YTA Instructor should prepare extra supplies and trading cards, because more students may show up to the classroom than planned for, or the prepared supplies may have issues (for example some students only received 3 neutrons in their packet and they were supposed to receive 6). One of the important supplies to consider is a large writing surface, needed for all 10 lessons. A great benefit of working in classrooms is that they always have a white board with markers available, so the YTA Instructor does not have to carry one in.
Disruptive and tardy children
To accomplish the goals of a YTA lesson, it is important that students not join the lesson in the middle of the lesson. However, with regard to the late child earning a trading card, it is more important to maintain a positive atmosphere in the YTA lesson, than to enforce strict rules on earning the lesson's trading card. So it is fine to give all children a card, regardless of when they entered the class. On the other hand, it is recommended that trading cards not be given to students that could not make the class at all; in this case it is better to teach a make-up class for absent children. However the YTA Instructor should make the call, and there are situations where it is better to give a trading card to a child, even though they were absent for the respective lesson.
With regard to disruptive students, the thinking of attentive students must not be limited by the disruptive behavior of other students. One of the benefits of having another adult in the room, usually a teacher, is to handle this type of an issue. But often the YTA Instructor can bring distracted/disruptive students back into the lesson by simply asking them to describe or demonstrate the lesson points that were recently discussed.