Over IAP 2014, Carissa Jansen taught STEM subjects to high school students in Spain

The schools

Institut Sant Andreu

At Institut Sant Andreu, located in the north of Barcelona, Carissa taught a range of different classes, mostly in the sciences: biology, scientific culture, and economy. Her topics included cell biology, cancer, endo/exothermic reactions, and MIT. “It was wonderful to be able to teach students from a large age range,” Carissa says, “and to see my students become more confident in class participation.”

Oakhouse School

At Oakhouse School, Carissa mainly taught alongside one of the teachers, Eulalia. Carissa accompanied her to science classes, where they used programs to build simple sugar molecules, created QR codes to place around the school, and performed biology labs on bacteria. Carissa gave many presentations to students about MIT and college in the U.S., including an assembly for all classes. “The students at Oakhouse were incredibly motivated and intelligent, and working with them was wonderful,” Carissa boasts.

Institut Josep Pla

At Institut Josep Pla, Carissa taught exclusively with the biology teacher, Jesus. Her lessons were mostly in biology, but Carissa also taught students a little bit about MIT and her experience there. “On the last day at the school, I played a jeopardy game with all of the students to test their understanding of the material and motivate them,” Carissa explains. “They were all so exciting to be doing something different and enjoyed it immensely.”

Teaching experience

While her curriculum varied by school, Carissa found that most of her students responded well to her PowerPoint presentations. Often, though, she would try other methods of presenting to keep her students engaged. “I tried to call on students as much as possible and make my lessons interactive, to increase student engagement in the material.”

The most significant challenge for Carissa to overcome was student engagement and participation. Many of the students were shy and quiet, so Carissa tried different ways to get students to be more interested and vocal. “I would talk about real world applications of what they were learning, have them do group activities like jeopardy and lab worksheets, and review the material that I covered at the end of each lesson,” Carissa explains.

“After I left, many of them thanked me and told me that they were more interested in biology because of my lessons. Some students even expressed an interest in studying in the United States. I sincerely hope that was able to motivate these students to pursue studies in the sciences, no matter where they are.”

Carissa's advice for future GTL students

  1. In order to teach, you must first connect with your students. Introduce yourself, and make yourself a person to respect but also to relate to. If your students can see you as both a peer and a mentor, they’ll be more interested in your lessons and experiences.
  2. Mix it up and mind your audience! Make sure to try different teaching styles to keep your students’ attention. This has the added benefit of determining what style works best for your particular group of students. For example, younger students might respond to more activity-focused lessons, whereas older students will also appreciate interesting content.
  3. Be careful of your wallet when you’re in the Metro!!! And anywhere! These pickpocketers know exactly which subway stops are entrances and not exits (vice versa), so you may not even be able to chase them.
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