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Class of students biking through Buffalo.

Published December 4, 2018

Biking project helps teachers explore local communities

Preservice teachers biking to uncover science and social studies in Buffalo

Buffalo, NY is well-known for their chicken wings and the geological wonder of Niagara Falls, but what else is there to learn about in the community? To answer this question, Noemi Waight and Sarah Robert, associate professors from the Department of Learning and Instruction are collaborating on a project, “Preservice Teachers Biking to 'uncover' Science and Social Studies in their Buffalo Communities.”

Science and social studies students aspiring to become teachers are pushed to learn outside of the classroom, as they are taught to engage in local context-specific scientific and social phenomena in their surrounding communities.

“Our goal as educators is to emphasize interdisciplinary science and social studies teaching and learning, which starts with the child, what they bring to the classroom and how their environment informs their knowledge,” Waight said. “It is not about telling our students but rather allowing them to experience it for themselves, and what better way to do that than by biking, a healthy and environmentally conscious approach.”

Preservice teachers can draw on different community resources to learn about the communities where they could potentially be teaching in the future. One instance is a biking trip through the West Side of Buffalo and onto Broderick Park and Unity Island where preservice teachers focused on scientific phenomena. For example, in the case of science, addressing the invasive species and also the restoration of the flora on Unity Island. Students also visited the Buffalo History museum to examine the history of Buffalo and learn about the Haudenosaunee, the first inhabitants of the Buffalo area.

“It is important for our students to learn about this history and thus understand the changing demographics and landscape for K-12 schooling in Western New York,” Waight said. “This project helps teachers and students become more active advocates of their community because they understand why they must protect their environment.”

Waight and Robert enjoy biking and exploring the community so much that they decided to start this project that introduces aspiring teachers to the main aspects of Buffalo. “In my case, I am not from Buffalo and one of the ways I learned about my community is through biking, which is a very healthy way to explore and offer an opportunity to cover more distance,” Waight said. Students noted they learned a lot from this experience and a few expressed they had never spent time on the West Side in their reflections.

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