STEM celebration

Betsy Crites promotes learning through educational outreach at Wright State’s Lake Campus

Betsy Crites, education lecturer and STEM coordinator at the Lake Campus, helps future teachers apply their learning through community outreach. (Photo by Erin Pence)

Inspired by her kindergarten teacher, a young girl named Betsy would go home and play teacher for hours. Those early experiences instilled in her a love of education, and she knew she wanted to be a teacher one day.

That dream came true and today, Betsy Crites is an education lecturer at the Wright State University–Lake Campus, inspiring the next generation of elementary school teachers.

Crites, who is also the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) coordinator at Lake Campus, received a Students First Fund grant from the Wright State University Foundation for a project that teaches education students how to use children’s books to inspire STEM learning.

In September, all junior and senior elementary education students attended a “train the trainer” program on how to use the “Picture-Perfect STEM” book series, along with fiction and nonfiction picture books, in their future classrooms. The students then presented the techniques at the countywide in-service training held in October for Mercer County teachers.

“Next year’s senior class will now train the incoming junior class, making this sustainable for many years to come,” said Crites.

Launched in January 2019, the Students First Fund was created by the Wright State Foundation to proactively seek and fund innovative ideas that enhance the Wright State student experience. Crites received one of the 13 grants for projects that also must be self-sustaining within two years.

“Educational outreach is at the heart of the Lake Campus,” said Crites. “A lot of learning takes place outside the classroom.”

Lake Campus elementary education students create fun activities that teach children about STEM.

Experiential learning is an important element in Crites’ teaching style. For example, Crites coordinates the wildly popular STEM Camp at Lake Campus each June. Children entering grades K–3 learn about science through fun hands-on sessions on topics such as dinosaur detectives, oceans, designing go-karts and building towers, mazes and boats. Education majors get the opportunity to develop activities and work with the children.

“I have already secured funding for STEM Camp next summer,” she said. “This year we met capacity in about six hours.”

Education students also volunteered at the summer reading program at the Marion branch of the Mercer County District Library in Chickasaw.

“These types of activities give our Lake Campus student practice in working with students of different abilities and interacting with parents — skills they will need in the workplace,” she said. “Ninety percent of last year’s graduates have been hired in full-time teaching positions.”

Wright State’s Lake Campus and the surrounding region hold a special place in Crites’ heart. She graduated from Coldwater High School, began her college career at Lake Campus and obtained her bachelor’s degree in education from Wright State in 1995. So it’s no wonder she wants to give back to her local community.

She started teaching in Celina City Schools before working at Wright State as an adjunct instructor teaching future teachers. In 2011, she was hired by Wright State as a full-time instructor of education, but she also worked occasionally for Celina City Schools as a technology coach.

Community outreach and partnerships are demonstrated in numerous other ways. In October, the education department worked with second grade teachers at Celina City Schools on the Lego League Jr. expo held at Lake Campus.

In November, the department hosted STEM Days for St. Marys and Parkway Schools second graders. This gave elementary education majors the opportunity to develop curriculum and collaborate in planning STEM activities for the children. The program also helps promote STEM equity in lower-income communities.

Junior and senior elementary education students at the Lake Campus learned how to use children’s books to inspire STEM learning.

Crites, along with several of her students, also visited the Tri Star Early Childhood classroom to promote the education program at Lake Campus. In addition, she and two adjunct instructors are partnering with the Arts Place in St. Marys for a Literature Festival in April. Education students will present reading strategies for parents, and the Arts Place will bring in several local authors.

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