Today we are talking with Amy Brown Science, The Lab (Liezel), and Kristin Lee Resources about combining technology with hands-on science instruction in secondary. Science teaching resources are among Boom Cards top sellers!
What is your favorite part about teaching science in secondary?
Kristin: The best part about teaching middle school is seeing how much growth there can be in such a short time. They come to you a little unsure about themselves and what this new experience will hold for them – and you get to watch them grow more confident and sassy every day! They grow into these funny, independent, whole people right in front of you. Teaching them science is amazing because you can see it absolutely ignite some of them, the way it did for me back then.
Liezel: One thing that I love about teaching high school is being able to go into more detail in the lessons. High school students are amazing to work with. My students are mature, motivated and hard working. They love to really explore the topic we are studying and always come and share examples and stories that they have found.
Amy: I have always been a high school teacher of mostly juniors and seniors. I love teaching this age group because they are at a point in their lives where anything is possible. They act all grown up and so sure of themselves, but they still love a compliment, a smile, and a hug just like they did in Kindergarten! Juniors and seniors suddenly realize they have decisions to make about universities and majors, and that they will soon be on their own. It is an honor to help guide them through these times of their lives.
Science is such a hands-on field. How do you incorporate virtual learning into your teaching without losing the hands-on aspect?
Amy: I am by far the oldest in this conversation. As a result, I have seen many strategies come and go over the years. An effective teacher does not use one strategy exclusively. Teaching requires an arsenal of techniques and tools, and multiple ways of implementing them. Virtual learning is just one more tool in my teaching arsenal. My students are in the lab at least once, but usually twice, a week. Nothing will ever replace the hands-on labs I do with my students. Virtual learning gives me another way to teach, review and reinforce the concepts I already teach.
Kristin: Like Amy said, it’s important not to rely on a single teaching tool too heavily. The more tools you can use to build knowledge on a topic, the more multi-faceted your teaching will be. Technology has opened up avenues of learning I hadn’t thought were possible! It will become increasingly important as our students come to us more tech-savvy and connected than ever – just not as a replacement for a hands-on lab experiment, dissection, or engineering challenge.
Liezel: I teach in a very small school (only 19 high school students) so it is not always possible to do practical work for all topics due to limited resources. Virtual labs, etc. are crucial to overcoming this problem.
What are some of the ways you have used Boom Cards decks with your students?
Liezel: I mainly use them for review work before exams. My students are currently busy with their Cambridge exams and Boom Cards decks are perfect for them to go through topics at home, identify problems and then come to me for help. They are now sending me requests for decks that they want!
Amy: One thing I love about Boom Cards decks is that I can assign them for homework. Students hate homework, and many of them never complete it. Students like the idea of virtual homework because they are already on their mobile devices anyway, and it is a unique way of assigning homework.
Kristin: I’m not currently in the classroom, I’m home with my young son. But until I get back, I am really excited to start using Boom Cards decks with my tutoring students! They are great for test prep and review, to assess prior knowledge, and to gauge the effectiveness of my tutoring. I also include them in nearly all of my middle school science units to serve several different functions; some reinforce science vocabulary, some assess concept comprehension, and I’m even working on some that will deliver content in a student-led capacity. There are so many possibilities!
What is the most exciting thing that ever happened to you in a science classroom?
Amy Brown: My high school and another high school a few miles away are big rivals. We have a competition between the two schools called “Battle of the Brains.” Students are required to identify an ecological problem and develop a possible solution to the problem. My proudest moments as a teacher is seeing the amazing ideas that come from my students. They believe that anything is possible!
Liezel: I will never forget the day that my science teacher showed us the properties of alkali metals. He took a big piece of potassium and threw it into a pond. From an ecological point of view, probably not a good idea, but it made for an awesome chemistry lesson!
Kristin: My first year teaching was in 8th grade science. Eighth-grade students, in particular, presented lots of challenges on top of first-year teaching struggles. Their time and focus are being pulled in many different directions as they prepared for a big transition to high school. I wasn’t feeling like a particularly effective teacher by the end of the year, but I returned from the graduation ceremony to find a note on my desk. A student wanted me to know what a great year she’d had, and how she felt empowered to pursue a career in the STEM field. I always hope I’ll run into her one day so I can tell her that she empowered me and maybe the reason I didn’t quit teaching after that first year! I’d love an update on how she’s doing.
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Amy Brown resides in Tennessee. She is married to her husband of 35 years and has two incredible daughters. Amy loves nature, the environment, and tries to spend as much time as possible outdoors. She loves to travel with her family to national parks and other outdoor locations, trips which her family lovingly refer to as “Mom Adventures.” Amy has 31 years of teaching experience in the biology and chemistry classrooms. She joined Teachers Pay Teachers as a teacher-author in 2006, shortly after the site was launched. She recently started making interactive Boom Cards products. Amy’s hands-on approach to teaching science instills a love of science and nature in her students and encourages them to make science a part of their everyday lives. In Amy’s words, “I just love to get kids hooked on science!” For more teaching tips and ideas about how to make science come alive in your classroom, visit Amy on her blog, AmyBrownScience.com. You can also keep up with Amy’s activities on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.
Kristin Lee combines creativity and scientific literacy to craft classroom materials to support students and teachers in their science classrooms. Prior to launching her online teacher-author business, she spent many years working in education outside of Chicago, IL. When not creating new ways to get kids hooked on science, Kristin enjoys playing with her young son, technology, and other wibbly wobbly timey-wimey stuff. You can find her on Boom Learning, TeachersPayTeachers, Pinterest, Instagram, and her website KristinLeeResources.com.
Liezel Pienaar lives in Somerset West, South Africa. It is about 40 km from Cape Town. Shee has a degree in Biochemistry and have been teaching for 15 years. She met er husband while they were both working in the UK. They have a 5-year-old daughter, Maja, and a Jack Russell Terrier named Milo. She teaches Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and Maths at a Montessori school situated on a wine estate! It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other. Her husband is the Facilities Manager and my daughter attends the pre-school. “It is amazing to all come to the same place every day.” Liezel authors science resources as The Lab on Boom Learning and Teachers Pay Teachers. You can follow her on Instagram (@thelab_by_liezelpienaar), Facebook and in her newsletter.