Cross Age Science Teaching (CAST) Program
Thanks to the Woods Hole Foundation for their ongoing support for the CAST Program!
The Cross-Age Science Teaching, or CAST, program is one of VIPS' longest-running programs. The effectiveness of cross-age or “peer teaching” has encouraged VIPS to expand CAST and use it as a model to develop other initiatives where older students help teach material covered in the frameworks, and provide academic and social support for younger students. At the same time, the older students are modeling behaviors, skills, and problem-solving techniques that motivate young learners.
CAST involves 8th graders at the Lawrence School working with third graders at each of Falmouth’s elementary schools. CAST incorporates hands-on science teaching based on the third grade energy curriculum. Elementary teachers continuously rate this program “excellent,” find that their students retain most of the concepts covered by the program, and love the peer teaching component.
Since 2008, CAST has run throughout the school year to serve every third grader in Falmouth Public Schools. This involves the participation of over 60 eighth graders each year, who attend two after-school training sessions and make three visits to an elementary school. At the elementary school, the 8th graders work with small groups of third graders. CAST serves 315 third graders each year! CAST sessions are designed to enhance the third grade energy curriculum, focusing on forces of motion and friction. This unit was selected based upon a survey of elementary science teachers, who felt that it would provide a good fit for the eighth graders and could be taught well in small groups. The CAST program perfectly aligns with the Massachusetts Frameworks Physical Sciences Forms of Energy learning standards for grades 3-5 (www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/scitech/1006.pdf).
In total, the CAST program serves 375+ new students every year. The reviews from students, 3rd grade classroom teachers, and 8th grade science teachers underscore the value of this program and its importance as a teaching and learning tool. Perhaps one of the most valuable outcomes of this program is the enthusiasm for learning that it generates, for both groups of students.
Cross-age teaching is not a new concept. Research on social learning theory suggests that our attitudes and behaviors are reflective of the people with whom we come into contact on a regular basis. The merits of the peer-to-peer approach have been well studied. For older students, research shows that the experience can improve self-confidence and build self-esteem, increase their sense of responsibility, improve academic achievement, improve their ability to relate to younger children as well as participating peers, and provide a better understanding of the teaching profession. For the younger students, research on cross-age teaching programs has shown that the interaction with teachers close to their own ages is well-balanced and lively, with students actively engaged in the lessons. Because younger youth look up to teens, rapport is established very quickly. In addition, cross-age teaching provides a great opportunity for everyone involved to learn about and appreciate the abilities, experience, and perspective of students of different ages.
Check out the CAST Program in action!
On a recent visit to Teaticket Elementary, 3rd grade students get to work with their 8th grade "science buddies" to construct peppermint racers. After giving the racers trial runs on the wooden ramps, the students got back to work making adjustments and tweaking their designs to see if they could improve speed and distance traveled.
8th graders from Lawrence School recently visited Mullen-Hall where they worked with teams of 3rd graders to lead interactive, hands-on demonstrations of forces of motion and friction concepts. The 3rd graders refer to the older students as "science buddies." Each year, the CAST program serves every third grader in the district, with nearly one-quarter of the 8th graders participating as peer teachers. Funding for the CAST program has been provided through grants from the Woods Hole Foundation and the Falmouth Education Foundation.