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By Mary Lynch, Lauren Foster Shaffer, and Ellen HallGo to page: 1 2 3 4
A reflection on science teaching and learning
by author Mary Lynch
One of my fondest memories of the Master's program through the University of Colorado, Denver and Boulder Journey School was the day that Frances and David Hawkins came to one of my seminars to speak. I had read their work and heard stories about them from our Professor, Ellen Hall, but I was not prepared for the profound impact that meeting them would have on my life as a teacher, and the way I have felt about teaching ever since. The visit with Frances and David was not a typical graduate school lecture. In fact, the two spent more time listening than they did speaking. They wanted to hear our stories: what we remembered about our own education and why we wanted to become teachers. By giving us the opportunity to reflect on our experiences, we were able to learn a great deal.
I began to wonder why as a child I was uninterested in science in school, even though I was naturally drawn to the outdoors, loved nature, and was naturally inquisitive. It didn't take me long to realize that I probably gleaned more of my knowledge about science through hikes with my father than through any of my elementary school classroom settings. As a result of this understanding, I have become a teacher who sees the value of time and space to experience science materials not only with children, but also with other teachers. I think that this is especially important to me because in school I felt that science was something that was overwhelming and difficult. The connections I feel to the Hawkins' philosophy on science education inspire me to push myself beyond my comfort level when exploring science with children at Boulder Journey School.
Introduction to Boulder Journey School
Boulder Journey School is a school for young children in Boulder, Colorado, that serves over 225 children, ages six weeks to six years and their families. We are also a school for teachers, housing a graduate level teacher education program in collaboration with the University of Colorado, Denver and the Colorado Department of Education. With a faculty of roughly 50, our school is an eclectic mix of Intern teachers who are currently in the teacher education program, Mentor teachers who have completed the program, and teachers who are notcurrently in the program but are at different points on their own educational paths. The glue that holds us all together is our collective commitment to ongoing professional development.
Since 1995, we have been studying the work of the Municipal Infant-Toddler Centers and Preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. This has had a great impact on the daily life of our school, keeping us motivated and inspired adult learners. It is also through our study of the schools in Reggio Emilia that we came across the work of two educators, David and Frances Hawkins. David's philosophical writings influenced Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the philosophy and pedagogy of the schools in Reggio Emilia (Malaguzzi 1998). Similarly, David Hawkins was a great admirer of Malaguzzi's work, and the two cultivated a professional relationship late in their lives. Lella Gandini writes, "Both believed in the importance of seeing children's processes of learning through action and also of renewing oneself with an open mind. Upon such a common base each was able to learn from the other" (Gandini, 2008).
Introduction to David and Frances Hawkins
As we began to study the schools for young children in Reggio Emilia, we also began to learn about David and Frances Hawkins. We were surprised to discover that they lived in Boulder just like us! They have inspired us as educators and have motivated us to recognize the vital importance of incorporating more science-based experiences throughout our school. They have also inspired our approach to professional development.
David and Frances Hawkins were both passionate educators, committed to the idea that in order to best serve children, teachers need to be dedicated learners as well. David's background was in philosophy; however his interests included economics, physics, mathematics, biology, and social and political science. Frances started her career as a teacher, never letting go of her commitment to documenting and studying children's learning processes. One of their biggest areas of influence was on science education, believing that science needs to be taught in a hands-on, exploration-based way; and to this end they worked with teachers and children throughout the world.
An innovative teacher center: The Mountain View Center for Environmental Education
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