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BEAMS: A Typical Activity Session

A typical activity session for a 5th or 6th grade class is led by a technical-staff volunteer from the lab and includes the class teacher and an "education technician" (a member of the lab's education staff). Its focus is one of the nearly 20 activities that have been developed by the lab's technical and education staffs in collaboration with master teachers from the neighboring school districts. A session usually last an hour. Detail, Instructional Materials

During an activity session, students begin by interviewing the technical staff volunteer, primarily from an interview chart that contains four standard questions: Name? Job description? Education and training needed for the job? Colleges and universities attended? Each class typically asks additional questions about salary range, marital status, children, pets, job likes and dislikes, and so on.

When the students have finished their interviewing, the volunteer opens the activity with something designed to gain the students' interest. This is usually a 5-minute discussion of some aspect of the lab that begins with "How do we do ...?" The volunteer tries to keep his or her contributions to a minimum and to encourage the students to discover as much as possible on their own.

The activities themselves are team-based. There are 2-5 students per team. During the activity, the teams can get quite excited, which can make some volunteer-leaders uncomfortable. Besides the volunteers, there are two other adults present to help the students--the teacher and a member of the lab's education staff. All three roam the room asking probing questions to lead the students through the activity and, in the process, ensuring that they stay on task.

At the end of the hour, students present their data/results, either orally or on the blackboard. The volunteer leads a discussion about "What you've learned," "What skills you've used," and "How you might use these skills again in 'real life'." The teacher or education staff person then expands on the activity or obtains feedback from the students about the activity and the volunteer.

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