Chances are that a majority of the 15,000 students in the first experienced a formal science lab with one of nine dynamic women.
But these women do not only teach science.
They teach thinking. They teach effort. They teach life. They teach patience.
Their names are Carol Kato, Stacey Holder, Janet Dobbs, Jenifer Perazzo, Patty Hanafee, Mikki Conley, Heideh Farahmand, Kim Lounsbury and Robyn Battaglia. And they each have close to 1,000 weekly contacts with 1st through 5th graders in Pleasanton.
These women live science, love science and use science to inspire the love of learning in the hearts of elementary students in Pleasanton.
Plesanton Patch had an opportunity this week to chat with a group of these elementary science specialists. During the meeting, it became obvious that, while these nine teachers spend all day every day in separate labs around the city, a dynamic chemistry exists between and among the nine of them.
Parents may think their children have one science lab teacher. But, in reality, 1st through 5th graders in Pleasanton are being taught by nine science specialists each.
“I work with the greatest eight women on the face of the earth,” said science specialist Patty Hanafee.
“I only wish we could teach in each other’s labs!”
Battaglia, who completed her student teaching with Lounsbury at Hearst last year, was hired as science specialist at this year.
“I was exposed to all nine labs last year,” Battaglia said. “Each time I’d teach in one of the labs, I came away with ideas on what the best parts of that lab were and I found all kinds of new ideas.”
Each lab has its own special attributes, including an observatory at , an outdoor garden classroom at Hearst, and a Weather Bug, and various animal species at Donlon.
It turns out, said the science teachers, that elementary labs are not geared simply to teach children about science.
Lounsbury said that elementary science specialists look far beyond scientific properties and facts. Instead, by demonstrating scientific theory applies to every part of life, the elementary science specialist helps kids fall in love with learning.
“Science means ‘to find out’,” she said. “And we can’t get away from it. Everything we do is scientific.”
And proving a hypothesis is not always the best outcome in elementary lab.
“Honestly, my proudest moments when teaching happen when kids stop changing their hypothesis and they learn to accept that their hypothesis isn’t supported,” said Hanafee.
“That’s when the real learning takes place,” she said, “Then we get to talk about why it didn’t work.”
All of the science specialists agreed that they love when a lab experiment flops – even when the teacher cannot reach the expected outcome.
“Kids get to think things through for themselves with no boundaries,” said Farahmand, who teaches at .
A skeptical mind, agreed the teachers, is a smart mind. The hands-on exposure to science that elementary students in Pleasanton receive helps them to think differently.
“In elementary school there’s a chance for kids to find out what they love,” said Lounsbury.
“They’re exposed to music, P.E. different kinds of science, band and strings, and none of them is better than the other.”
The science specialists agreed that children need exposure to all of these kinds of learning in order to discover their individual passions.
A scientist can spend a lifetime waiting on a science experiment. And Pleasanton’s science specialists see first-hand how the world that today’s children inhabit runs at a far faster pace than the world their parents inhabited 20 or 30 years ago.
In teaching children to overcome the desire for instant gratification in a science lab, they say, children learn the valuable lessons of patience, discipline and acceptance of failure.