Tue November 1, 2011

Patch - Channahon-Minooka

Teaching Out of the Box; Channahon Three Rivers Nicole GubbinsChannahon Three Rivers teacher Nicole Gubbins believes in her students.

The former electrician, turned teacher, recognized early in the school year that her sixth graders were very passionate about recycling.

Other teachers would not have allowed student interests to determine what is taught, but her teaching philosophy is that, 'Anytime you have a student lead a project, they buy into it.'

The students would not give up the idea that they wanted to recycle, so Gubbins drew together the skills that needed to be learned-graphing, research, group work and presentation. She then organized her lessons so that the students could study recycling, incorporating the needed skills.

In groups, the students researched on the internet, found out how much is thrown into landfills, looked for area recylers, heard a guest speaker, and planned presentations to they will be taking to other classes at Three Rivers School.

The students are excited enough about what they learned that they talked to the Patch about what they did. Gubbins, in her characteristic style, let the students speak about their discoveries.

A student named David expressed surprise that so many companies were involved in recycling.

"I thought we should start recycling plastics," he said. "Mrs. Gubbins said we should try to research it, to see what is being done."

Hallie said, "It impacted me and my family, not just in school."

The students will present their information via posters and speeches to the Three Rivers Principal Susan Kavich, and maybe, eventually, to the school district superintendent.

The work they were doing on recycling plastics lead to another discovery, a company that recycling used clothing and fabrics called USAgain (pronounced ‘used again'), and through the class's efforts a bin will be installed near the back of the school for used textiles.

Perhaps the lesson that is the overwhelming part of Gubbins' teaching is that her 31 Language Arts students feel that their efforts can make a difference.

"It's different (from other learning)," said Mattie. "We can actually change something in the school."

About this column: Teachers are challenged every day. And, every day, we expect that they will teach their students something new. Sometimes, they teach what is found inside a book. But sometimes, teachers reach beyond the four walls of the classroom and teach their students about what it means to be human.