Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Art of Science

After a couple years in the classroom, I attended a in-depth, week-long seminar on 'Teaching with the Brain in Mind' (if you're a teacher, or just interested in the brain, Eric Jensen is awesome!). During that week, I developed a greater love for teaching than ever before - and that says a lot!

I processed my experiences into a few guidelines that made my job much easier on a daily basis. As a first grade teacher, I got the incredible opportunity of teaching students *all* the subjects. That being said, I think every teacher has a favorite subject, one that they really look forward to during the day. Before that year, I had always considered myself a literacy teacher first and foremost. After all, this was first grade, the five components of reading were woven into pretty much everything we did. The following year, I kept up with my beloved literacy instruction (and all the other subjects as well), but also became very passionate about teaching science. Word spread quickly around school that the first graders in Room 41 were learning and loving science (a subject that although represented in the Sunshine State Standards, is not on first grade report cards and therefore often overlooked). In the hallways I was known as 'The Butterfly Lady'. We even had several other classes visit our room to see what kind of crazy experiments we had going on (the kids thought it was super-cool when a class of fourth graders walked in one day during a lesson). The other first grade teachers approached me to see if I wanted to departmentalize the following year so that I would be teaching science to all the first grade students. This was an exciting proposition, but I wasn't quite ready to give up the other subjects & my own little 'family' of students.

So all of this is really just to tell you about The Bubble Artist aka Keith Michael Johnson (update, you can also check him out here). If I were still in the classroom, I would be doing anything and everything I could (asking for donations, writing grants, submitting to Donor's Choose) to get this guy to do a presentation!

He uses a great childhood love (bubbles!) to explain things like the states of matter, force & pressure, etc. I'm a firm believer that children can grasp most concepts quite accurately without having it presented to them like watered-down-mush. In first grade materials, it's sometimes hard to wade through the mush & find meaningful lessons. Keith's presentation, however, is both meaningful & developmentally appropriate. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, he follows every rule of 'Teaching with the Brain in Mind'. He is SO engaging and fun that students are guaranteed to have a fantastic time... and also walk away with a better understanding of science concepts.

I mention this now, even though the man has been doing these presentations since I was 5 years old, because he's been everywhere I turn lately. First he appeared in one of my favorite magazines last summer. Then this past Sunday, I happened to catch him on the Discovery Channel. I tip my hat to this man, not only did he make a lifetime career out of doing something he loved... he also brings out that passion in his audience. That, I believe, is the mark of a great teacher.

More videos available here.


Anonymous said...

Hello Emily,

Thanks for the Shout-Out.

As you know, it is a real challenge to break adult-sized topics down into kid-sized bites and then to craft the information into an engaging presentation.

The thing is I have as long as I need (usually 6 to 18 months) to build my programs and so I'm amazed by teachers with their ability to generate daily lesson plans. Now that's pressure.

So, when I get a compliment from a teacher, it registers with extra impact.

I loved your "How I've learned to handle first graders" post. It is right on the money ~ exactly the same strategies I find most useful with audiences peopled with 200 K-6 graders.

Thanks too for the links to my websites above. Here is one more, . It is the largest non-commercial site about bubbleology on the 'net. I created it with teachers in mind. After all...

You can learn a lot from a bubble!

You might like to keep an eye out for the newspaper magazine American Profile (it is the Parade magazine for smaller markets). Look for a full page with interview and photos (both already done) sometime in the next couple of months.

In forums like yours I always like to acknowledge Ms. J. my resource room teacher for most of elementary school. In Ms. J's closet sized classroom I learned the skills that made it possible for me to keep up with my "regular" classmates ~ right through college. (Yes, I've gone back to tell her so.)

May I quote some of what you had to say about my work? I'll include a link back here of course.

Thanks again. Happy Halloween!



Emily said...

Hi Keith - thanks for the comment & the link to! Of course, you can quote anything you'd like from my post (thanks for asking!). I have to admit, I'm a little star-struck right now... kudos to you for putting together such fun & educational presentations! Keep it up & I'll keep e-stalking you (don't worry, in a good way)! :o)

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