Hastings science teacher introduces a new style of teaching

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Hastings, Neb. (KSNB) – Hastings Middle School eighth grade science teacher Bailey Johnson recently had the opportunity to speak about her unique teaching approach at the NSTA conference in Kansas City. Johnson is in her 13th year at HMS and is in the Robert Noyce Master Teacher Fellowship program. Her actual use of learning is what she shared at the conference. By incorporating the real world, authentic teaching helps make the subject relevant to the student, she said.

Johnson explores what real learning is and what it looks like in a science classroom. She also saw how it benefited the students. Johnson wrote a 23-page research paper on the topic, and read any book on sound education. She learned what it was, how it was built, and how it aligned with Nebraska’s educational standards. Johnson said the right education and the state standards are compatible with each other.

“The standards came out with teaching kids to be scientists more than anything else, and the right education is going to get them to be scientists or act like scientists or do the things that a scientist would do,” Johnson said.

The Next Generation Science Standards encourage students to ask questions, conduct and plan investigations. That gives students buy-in to the lesson plan, and like a scientist, real learning starts with gathering data.

“In my classroom, I always try to make it illegal as a prior knowledge,” Johnson said. “See what they bring, what do you know? Like today’s ‘What do you know about magnets?’ They’re bringing in quite a bit of information, so that’s our starting point, I get to where they are, and then I have them create an event related to that; Where have you seen this before?

Johnson said students were eager to share where they noticed where science played a factor. She says bringing early experiences into the fold is a big part of authentic learning, because it connects what’s in the textbook to what you see. When that connection is made, students understand the material better, which often increases test scores. Johnson feels this teaching method resonates most with students.

“If you really teach and provide enough authentic science learning opportunities, kids feel like they buy into it and it’s useful and they’re like, ‘Oh, I can relate this to this experience in my life.'”

When that happens, Johnson lights a fire in them and unleashes their creativity. They begin to ask ‘what if,’ which Johnson describes as “the most beautiful response a child can have.” She said the Robert Noyce Master Teacher Fellowship program helped her become a better teacher.

“In this program, we learned about leadership strategies and inclusion in the classroom,” Johnson said. “Honestly, one of the biggest changes I’ve made is to be a little more culturally competent in my approach as an educator.”

Johnson became more culturally competent by asking students about their experiences. Regardless of background, we all have unique experiences to share.

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