Catalina Hidalgo

How do you teach?

 “Ms. Hidalgo + rocks = love forever” was written on one of the desks in my 8th grade science classroom. Instead of being upset over the vandalism, I was amused to see that my performance sold the students on this crazy idea: I loved rocks so much that they were going to learn about them.

As part of the Florida science curriculum, students are to explain the rock cycle and how it relates to Earth’s changing surface. But let’s face it, learning the qualities and origins of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks can put any 13-year-old to sleep. The real-world application of the rock cycle is hard to sell to a crowd of inner-city middle school students, so how do you make it interesting? Pretend to have an obsession and overzealously share a rock collection.

The hook to the first lesson on rocks incorporated an extensive collection of rocks and crystals that I found in a science closet. I passed around various rocks and put on a show, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to share with you one of my most prized possessions so please take good care of my beautiful rocks!” The students’ jaws dropped and chuckles were heard around the room.

“Is she serious? She has no life,” said one student. Instead of reprimanding the students who said snide remarks, I continued to express my love for rocks. Eventually students started asking, “Why? What makes them so interesting to you?” and that was when the lesson started. The jokes had stopped and all eyes were on a presentation following Iggy the Igneous Rock through the rock cycle. This lesson would eventually lead the class to 85% mastery on the quiz.

Sometimes it’s not about what you teach, but how you teach it that makes all the difference.

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