Abington education feature

Focus On: Elementary & Early Childhood Education

Extensive field experience and service learning coupled with intensive coursework and committed faculty develop educators who teach with impact.
By: Regina Broscius
Penn State Abington students and local children and their teachers benefit from working with with experts such as Grand Hank, a nationally known figure in science education.

It was a science lesson the fourth-graders won’t soon forget. The DJ — yes, the DJ— dropped music while Grand Hank the chemistry guru ran some colorful and explosive experiments. The result? Hands down one of the most engaging science lessons of their young lives.

This Grand science experiment was managed by Penn State Abington elementary & early childhood education faculty and students. It brought children from economically disadvantaged elementary schools in the region to the college for a lesson by a nationally known figure in science education, Grand Hank.

Abington education majors

Children from schools in the region visit Penn State Abington.

Credit: Regina Broscius

Grand Hank talked to the fourth-graders about more than beakers and gases, though. He talked about his rocky start in college but perseverance and caring faculty helped him earn his degree and later a job as a research scientist at Johnson & Johnson.

Finally, he delivered powerful hands-on science lessons with help from the fourth-graders. The experiments included a controlled combustion reaction, drawing “blood” from a student’s palm, vacuum packing a child, and capturing gas from dry ice to form a bubble.

His work with the fourth-graders taught the Abington education majors and fourth-grade teachers how to teach science with impact. He engaged the students using common, inexpensive supplies and engaged even the hard-to-interest students with the content. 

'Service Learning Makes You Who You are as a Professional'

Penn State Abington education majors say the required service learning component helped them establish themselves as teachers.

Community partnerships = mutual benefits

Abington students said their takeaway from the morning with Grand Hank was relationship-building with the fourth-grade teachers and children, who hail from the college's community partnership schools.

The partnership schools, located in struggling socioeconomic areas, work closely with Abington faculty and students. It's a mutually beneficial relationship.

Several times a year, they collaborate:

  • The Abington students donate time and talent, spending time at the elementary schools observing and teaching mini-lessons.
  • The children come to the Abington to learn about science from Grand Hank, about writing from popular children’s authors, and Abington students teach more mini-lessons. Equally important, the children are exposed to a college campus — likely a first for many.
  • Abington faculty host professional development with experts in literacy, diversity, and other specialties for the education majors and invite teachers from the partnership schools to the trainings, too.

At the end of the day with Grand Hank, the fourth-graders returned to their schools (John Hancock in Norristown, Samuel Faust in Bensalem, and Philadelphia's Alexander McClure and Anne Frank) with a new enthusiasm for science. And the Abington education majors will forever teach science with Grand Hank's booming voice inspiring them.

education program

An elementary education major helps students from community partnership schools with experiments in their first visit to a college biology lab.

Credit: Regina Broscius


About the Elementary & Early Childhood Education Major

Penn State Abington offers a four-year major in Elementary and Early Childhood Education leading to the PreK-4th grade Pennsylvania state teaching certification.

As with all Penn State undergraduate teacher education programs, this is designed to provide students with experiences necessary to become certified teachers based on all requirements as specified by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and following guidelines recommended by the National Association for Education of Young Children.

Graduates benefit from the excellent reputation of Penn State's teacher education programs.