A Strong Content Knowledge (NSTA Standard 1)

As a teacher, it is essential to have a solid understanding of the material you plan to teach. Personally, I feel more than prepared with the science background I have gained at William and Mary. During my time at school, I majored in and took courses as wide-ranging as neurophysiology, conservation biology, molecular cell biology, zoology, botany, evolutionary biology, developmental biology, microbiology, etc. On the Praxis II Biology Content Knowledge Exam, I demonstrated this wide-ranging knowledge by achieving a score of 199 out of a possible 200, which qualified me for the Educational Testing Service's Recognition of Excellence Award. Though the time I devoted to my undergraduate School of Education coursework prevented me from minoring in chemistry, I have taken two semesters of organic chemistry and two semesters of general chemistry.
Collecting Data at the Chicago Botanic Garden

In Summer 2009, I had the unique opportunity to participate in conservation biology/botany research at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL. Working with a scientist at the Garden, I designed my own research project exploring the reproductive biology of the American Dog Violet (Viola conspersa), which is a threatened species in Illinois. Through population sampling in the field and a cold stratification germination study in the lab, I gathered data that I later evaluated and presented at the final REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) summer research symposium. I received the Best Oral Presentation Award, and created a scientific poster as the main product of my research. Through my research, I gained a number of valuable insights regarding the nature of science. For example, when it became clear that my germination study was largely failing (i.e., no seeds were germinating), I took it upon myself to conduct a seed viability assessment using a rather obscure chemical. In my classroom, I plan to emphasize the importance of remaining flexible with regard to the design of scientific investigations.

Emphasizing the Nature of Science (NSTA Standard 2)

Though all components of the Nature of Science should be points of focus in the science classroom, I feel it is particularly important to emphasize that scientific endeavors necessitate collaboration. A common misunderstanding about the Nature of Science is that the typical scientists works alone, holed-up in a dark laboratory. In actuality, scientists must work with one another to share ideas, conduct the research itself, and publish their findings. For this reason, I will be using collaborative lab groups in my classroom frequently to show through practice that group-work is an absolute must for scientists.

As I have come to see through my own research and coursework at William and Mary, successful scientists do not necessarily adhere to the strict set of steps popularly known as the scientific method. Rather, they typically follow more general guidelines for scientific investigation that allow for more creative experimental design and often more fruitful results. In the coming years, I hope to give my students a solid understanding of scientific investigation through hands-on inquiry laboratory experiences that will allow them to design and conduct their own experiments.

Any good scientist understands that scientific knowledge can be both tentative and reliable. With my students at New Kent High School, I have already begun to convey this key aspect of science to my students. When some students had different results than others during a lab intended to demonstrate the cohesive properties of water, I explained that there a vast array of factors affecting scientific experimentation. These factors may cause scientists to jump to incorrect conclusions, and only after repeated trials can we be confident in the reliability of our data.

Incorporating Current Events/ Issues (NSTA Standard 4)

In my future classroom, I p
A Map of the Chesapeake Bay
lan to frequently connect the material back to real-world issues in science and technology such as pollution, stem cell research, etc. To better engage the students and give them a sense of the real-world applications of the content they are learning, it is absolutely vital to explore current events relating to science. In order to accomplish this, I will design several assignments or mini-projects throughout the year that require students to apply their knowledge to current events. For example, in light of the recent BP oil spill, I might ask my students to research the spill using a variety of media (e.g., online sources, magazine/newspaper articles, etc.) and identify a particular implication for biodiversity. Their assignment would then culminate in a news-briefing (either in class or videotaped) in which they would be required to discuss the details of their chosen implication and evaluate potential solutions. In my daily lessons, I have also discussed current events. Recently, my students investigated research on the tonicity of various sports drinks through a scaffolded reading activity designed to help them draw connections between science and everyday life. Additionally, my students have read through a portion of a report from New Kent County's Planning Commission regarding the ecology of their area and threatened species native to the area. They have discussed conservation initiatives in their area (New Kent, VA) and the nearby Chesapeake Bay.