Published: Feb 26, 2013 06:00 PM
Modified: Feb 22, 2013 09:56 AM
Dillard Drive Middle School teacher Joann Blumenfeld takes one motto very seriously – “Science: Explore the Possibilities.”
Blumenfeld had the logo printed on each of her 40 new science “inquiry bags.” Thanks to a $1,500 grant through the Biogen Idec Foundation, students took the bags home for the first time earlier this week.
The bags are part of Blumenfeld’s goal of creating “citizen scientists” – the kind of students who continue to investigate with hands-on activities at home, proving that science is all around us
Blumenfeld, a special education teacher, was one of eight teachers chosen from North Carolina for a fellowship program in the prestigious National Science Teachers Association 2012-13 New Science Teacher Academy.
Nationally, 244 science teachers were selected and will participate in a year-long professional development program to promote quality science education. Q: What was the inspiration behind your inquiry bags, and what do you hope to achieve?
I have named the bags “Zach’s Packs” after my nephew, who died last year of leukemia at the age of 19. He was planning to study science at Emory University.
As part of the new Common Core curriculum, there is a focus on inquiry-based skills and application of knowledge. I have created 40 different bags with 40 different topics. Each contains a lab and a science comic book. Each of my sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students will take home a different bag each Monday and return the bag and their lab sheets and answers to lab questions on Friday.
I want students to learn to work independently, to think of higher-order questions, to consider, “Why did this happen?” I want them to make connections to science in the world around them; I want them to see that they can be leaders and doers and inventors. Q: Your students also do a community service project each year, correct?
Yes. Last year, we cleaned up an area at Lake Crabtree.
This year, we will be visiting the nuclear power plant and cleaning a trail at Lake Harris. We’ll go geo-caching and use GIS equipment to track where they are in the forest.
The students will also create a display about local animals to display at the lake for other visitors. The trip was made possible by a donation from the South Raleigh Civitan Club. Q: And you’re also the Teens in Science Club sponsor?
Yes, beginning in March, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences will come out to speak with our students once a week. Some N.C. State students will help, too. We will talk about ecosystems and the environment, and the staff members will bring reptiles and mammals.
Any sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade student can participate. We usually get about 30 who take part. It is funded through Wal-Mart. Q: What do you hope to accomplish through your NSTA professional development?
I want more students to consider science careers; we don’t have enough Americans wanting to study science.
I think we have to change the perception of science, have fewer worksheets and more hands-on activities.
One of the problems I see is the budget. I have about $3 per year, per student. But labs are the best way to learn science – students are so engaged. You can talk about chemical reactions, but it is so much better to see it happening.