Westborough – At first glance, Room C209 is like any chemistry classroom, with a variety of teenagers laughing, chatting, reading or writing. Test tubes are on a counter and, of course, periodic tables are the main decorative theme.
Except the periodic tables are in Chinese and German, as well as English.
C209 is home to contemporary chemistry, the first chemistry class at Westborough High School to be team-taught by a chemistry teacher and English Language Learning (ELL) teacher.
The result of an idea generated in the ELL department and funded through a grant last summer, the course allows chemistry teacher Megan Clancy and ELL teacher Ann Taylor the opportunity to work together with 13 students, some who need help with English.
"This is pretty new, the fact that we're working together in a content area," Taylor said. "We took Megan's curriculum then tried to make it more user friendly."
Tamires Freitas, an 11thgrader, has been in the United States for 10 years and she sees the advantage of the class.
"I think it's good. It helps not only people who struggle with chemistry but people who come from another country," said Freitas, who is from Brazil. "We're still learning the same things other people do, but just in a slow setting."
The class, designed to make chemistry accessible by making it relevant to the students' everyday life, was concentrating on the water cycle in early September, Taylor explained.
While Clancy led the class, asking students for definitions of terms like evaporation and condensation, Taylor went from desk to desk, checking in with students.
Reviewing definitions on that particular day was Taylor's idea. That is one example of why Clancy appreciates the co-teaching model.
"I was concerned that the ELL students didn't have these words, so we're reviewing them," Taylor said.
"That's where it's really helpful," Clancy said. "I wouldn't think to go over it."
One reason the chemistry class became a co-teaching class, along with an algebra class, is that it was scheduled to have a large number of ELL students, Taylor said. It was a perfect opportunity to develop a co-teaching model.
"I think it's great because I come from a chemistry background," Clancy said. "I don't know much about ELL. I think it's great to be teaching with [Taylor] because otherwise I'd be running around looking for [her] and I wouldn't make the same adaptations."
Robin DeRusha, another 11th-grade student, enjoys the co-teaching model, even though she is not an ELL student.
"You have two diff erent personalities and two diff erent opinions on things. They have two different ways of explaining things and two diff erent backgrounds," she said. "It makes it interesting. It's not the same old thing every day."
As the students discussed their tallies of water usage in their homes, Taylor talked about conserving water when she lived on a boat. Clancy then asked some of the ELL students if they had lived through severe drought in their home countries.
At one point, Clancy walked around the class to demonstrate that liquid has volume but no shape by dripping water onto counter tops.
"The idea is to make it more relevant to their lives," Taylor said, "which is the way kids are going to learn."