Teaching 13 to 30 sixth graders can be a challenging task for some teachers, but for Waukee science educators Sarah Borzo and Jill Godfredsen it gave them an opportunity to join forces.

"Sarah and I like to combine our classes so our students can see more interaction," Borzo said. "We get to play off each other’s strengths and co-teach to include the whole group. Other times, we can take smaller groups and focus on their needs."

At times, a combined classroom could consist of 60 students.

"It’s almost easier to have large groups because the kids are more engaged when they work together, especially on a tougher problem," Borzo said. "It also makes it easy to monitor the whole group while the other teacher is working with a smaller group."

When working with students, both educators depend on the problem-based approach.

"We try to have them think about real-life situations and let them know that they are solving a new problem," Borzo said. "We are also big on choice and how you have to choose to share your understanding of a concept."

Students also have the freedom to do hands-on assignments like singing and dancing.

Godfredsen said a hands-on approach is her preferred method and wished she could have learned that way in grade school.

"For me, I wish I would have seen the hands-on approach from the get-go as well as thinking in a scientific approach," she said. "Showing kids that we don’t have all the answers make them really want to explore and figure things out themselves."

Borzo added by allowing her students to think outside of the box they can recognize real-world applications.

"I love teaching science to show kids how their thinking can have a global as well as community effect," she said.

Although the duo agreed that teaching at a middle-school level is challenging they agreed that it is worth it.

"The group we work with is more challenging because of their age," Borzo said. "You really have to show them that you care. It’s a very real relationship because they rely on your guidance and value what you are teaching them."