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Chloe Poltonavage

EDUC 344

Professor Lori Smolleck

Science Platform

November 27, 2018

Educator > Teacher

Diving deeper into the theoretical understanding, along with the practical understanding

of teaching science in elementary schools is the foundation of building student’s knowledge. It is

through curiosity and life experiences that teacher-initiated inquiry is most effective in the lives

of others. It is through the experiences I have encountered throughout the duration of EDUC 344

that I say, with great confidence, that I am the person who believes that by providing someone

with a safe space, one will feel comfortable exploring their curiosities and exemplifying passion.

By being a person who believes these qualities are important, I hope to one day demonstrate and

provide this type of environment as a future educator to my future students.

I am the kind of person who believes that people of all ages will begin to do what they

see, act in a way that is demonstrated to them, and treat others the way they are treated. I am the

kind of person that believe teaching is not only done in the classroom – rather, teaching is

something that forever impacts the lives of those around you. It is something many do without

realizing it, something that is considered second nature. I am the kind of person who has chosen

an educational path to go down, one that will in turn provide me with a classroom and twenty-

some young students who are filled with nothing but genuine excitement for learning. I am the

kind of person who does not view ‘teacher’ as a title, but rather see it as a privilege that

someday, somewhere, there will be a group of elementary school administrators and hiring team
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that believe I have the passion to positively impact the young lives of children who will welcome

me into their school district. For the entirety of the paper, I will be limiting the title ‘teacher’, and

instead referring to what I believe is a lifestyle in which one is blessed with. More specifically, I

feel is it is important as a future educator to have a mission statement, one that differentiates a

teacher from an educator. My mission statement reads, ‘I am committed to giving 110% effort to

positively influence the lives of others and being a resource in whatever way is needed to guide

character building’

For me to feel so strongly about the difference between a teacher and an educator, must

genuinely reflect my past experience as a student. The truth of this lies behind the life-long

impact a few of my educators growing up have had on me. These people, Mrs. Schreffler, Mrs.

Pomykalski, Dr. Herb-Fausey, and Mrs. Moyer are the incredible people who have made a great

impact on my life. The educators I have previously mentioned are from a variety of grades

throughout my elementary and high school career. However, something that differentiates them

from the other teachers I had is not strictly educational material. Instead, it is the fact the Mrs.

Schreffler still clips the newspaper & sends me a card with articles about my team following

each season. It is Mrs. Pomykalski who stressed the importance of not just memorizing material

to take a test, but rather how to apply what was being taught to our lives, along with emailing me

regularly to check in. It is Dr. Herb-Fausey who was the first person from school to reach out to

me after my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It is Mrs. Moyer who was my kindergarten teacher

who gave me the kindest words of encouragement after I was not accepted into the enrichment

program because when I was asked what the opposite of the color black was, I answered brown.

I do not strictly associate educators with the traditional K-12 schooling. Rather, I

associate educators to be anyone who has positively influenced my growing as a person in a way
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that challenged me through the process. The first person who comes to mind is my high school

field hockey coach, Jill Martz-Yisrael. Though Coach Yiz, as we called her, is in fact an educator

at Line Mountain, the most empowering encounters was outside of the classroom and on the field

hockey field. I feel as if this is an extremely important part of myself in terms of why I value the

things I do and why I try to have strong work ethic and take pride in everything I take on. To

date, I still find myself reflecting back on the specific quotes she had said that exemplify true

leadership and strong character – something I very much value today.

The Martin article relates greatly to the educating style that have been the most impactful

and influential to me. The first quote that resonated with me, reads, “Teachers tend to teach the

way they were taught” (Martin, 13) This quote is applicable to each person I had previously

mentioned. I find that this is extremely relatable to the way I perceive educating and the way I

intend to one day educate children. Thanks to Mrs. Schreffler, Mrs. Pomykalski, Dr. Herb-

Fausey, Mrs. Moyer, and Coach Yiz, I will act in accordance to the teaching styles each educator

has demonstrated. More specifically, I hope to one day be the type of person who is an available

resource that feels comfortable discussing situations that are going on at home that are impacting

the student’s ability to learn in class, as Dr. Herb-Fausey had done with me.

The next piece from the Martin article that I feel impacted my character building reads,

“It is crucial that teachers ask for the reasons why children inferred what they did” (Martin, 17)

This relates to the room that I have been given by these educators that allowed me branch out

and explain why things impact me more than others. This is relevant to the questions Dr. Herb-

Fausey, our student council advisor, had asked me when I was running for student council

president in relation to why I placed so much emphasis on planning our ‘Think Pink’ game. She

expressed genuinely curiosity about whether there had been something in my life that had made
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me so passionate about cancer, and this to me was one of the most reassuring things an educator

could have done in that moment.

As the Martin article dove into the difference between “rightness” or “wrongness” or

responses and the impact these both have on students, it is also relevant to my experience in both

the classroom and on the field hockey field. This is relevant to my future educating style as I

hope to one day create a classroom community where both rightness and wrongness are viewed

as opportunities to grow, while both having positive connotations. “Although these responses are

opposites, they are both “correct” based on reasons given.” (Martin, 23) This is something I hope

to add to my classroom community as a future educator, which will positive contribute to

encouraging rightness or wrongness. By doing so, children will feel comfortable exploring their

own thoughts and feeling safe to come to a different conclusion than the person sitting next to


The most important purpose of educating children in science is providing young minds a

safe space, which in turn will offer each child with an opportunity to explore curiosity.

Throughout my experience in EDUC 344, Professor Smolleck has demonstrated what it looks

like to provide this safe space. Throughout completing the labs, I have found that this type of

learning is extremely beneficial for me. Through class discussion, and learning how much my

classmate’s learning styles differ from that of mine, it is in this way that Professor Smolleck

demonstrated student-oriented learning. Professor Smolleck had given us the material(s) we

needed, and gave us time to explore while using a hands on approach. This was extremely

beneficial for me as I am a hands-on learner. Professor Smolleck demonstrated that different

types of learners will go about the laboratories in different ways, and this is something that

should be praised and encouraged by each other. This creates a perfect teaching moment, by
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having the children explain to the rest of the class how they reached the conclusion they did. This

contributes to building a community, where the children feel as if they are supported by their

peers. This is especially important for student’s do not have this type of environment at home.

Being an outlet for this group of children is the resource that could give the children something

they could desperately be searching for- hope. By creating a curriculum where students have the

ability to connect real-world, personal examples to the material, children will have more of an

advantage of drawing personal experiences that will benefit their motivation to inquire more.

As the basis of the Martin article stresses, “children are natural-born scientists. They are

naturally inquisitive and begin doing science from the moment of birth by observing and sorting

out the world.” (Martin, 13) By providing a safe space for children, I will provide children a

space where they are able to foster their curiosity for learning. This safe space encourages

student-driven learning and trial and error while revolving around a hands-on approach to

learning. When considering teaching models, the Martin article reads, “…one that encourages

students to inquire and form conclusions that are meaningful and understandable to them” This

directly reflects one of the primary goals of the National Research Council of science education.

This reads, “to teach children how to do science through applying the processes of science in

individual inquiries” (Bruner, 1965; National Research Council [NRC. 1996; Rutherford &

Ahlgren, 1990) As demonstrated in EDUC 344, process-oriented inquiry is beneficial and

extremely effective to a majority of students. This is credited to the fact that each child has the

ability to inquire at their own pace without feeling the pressure of others to move any faster or

slower. This contributes to one of the most important purposes of educating children in science,

strictly due to the fact that process-oriented inquiry will be a strategy that could be used for the

rest of their lives in a variety of different real-world applications.

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I think children learn science best when they feel as if their opinions, thoughts, and

feelings are valid and meaningful. I have come to conclude that my best grades are earned in the

classes I am genuinely interested in. Rather that be a class in which I enjoy the material, or in a

class where the professor creates this sense of community, I feel like I apply myself the most.

More personally, this semester I am taking my laboratory science. Leading up to this course, I

had been extremely nervous, apprehensive, and dreaded just the thought of taking a science

course. However, Professor Raymond created an environment in which I felt more than

comfortable applying myself. He constantly stresses that it is okay to be wrong, that he

encourages us to question, and coming to a different conclusion than the laboratory group beside

you is more than okay. Professor Raymond has never viewed wrongness as a negative, but rather

suggests that rightness and wrongness run parallel to one another. When he asks questions in

class, he thrives on asking the ‘why’ behind what the response is. UNIV 264 is a direct reflection

of what I hope to apply to my future classroom, because I believe children learn science best

when their opinions are validated.

Like I had previously mentioned, I think children are able to retain information when

they have the ability to relate the lesson to a real-world application. Reflecting back to the Martin

article, constructivism is the notion that the only way people learn is by attaching new

experiences to experiences or knowledge they already have. Learning does not occur by

transmitting information from the teacher to the child’s brain.” (Martin, 24) When I envision my

future classroom, I envision my students learning by constructing their own meaning. I envision

that this will be done by using what they already know and use their curiosity to come to new

conclusions. This provides children with the opportunity to demonstrate their own and unique

life experiences, which will likely contribute to classroom management. In class discussion in
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EDUC 344, we learned that behavioral issues will be limited if students are engaged and

interested in the material.

By understanding that each student will attach the new knowledge to their existing

knowledge in different ways, we understand that each person ends up with different

constructions (Martin, 25) This is relevant to process-oriented inquiry because it motivates

children to use prior knowledge and apply it to the lesson being learned. It is also important to

follow state guidelines to plan lessons that appropriate for not only the age or grade of students,

but rather level of students after assessing where students are. I truly believe that children learn

science best when they are able to have fun with the lesson, while feeling confident that rightness

or wrongness is not the only priority.

When I think of teaching science to children, I envision myself wondering around the

classroom asking questions that probe students into thinking about different things. Most of all, I

envision myself duplicating a classroom environment similar to the one of our EDUC 344 class.

In this environment, I feel extremely valuable to class discussion and following laboratories. I

find that having a close relationship with my future students, similar to the one we share with

Professor Smolleck, is a life-long relationship that I hope is maintained forever. I hope to one

day be the educator my students are writing about as I had written about Mrs. Schreffler, Mrs.

Pomykalski, Dr. Herb-Fausey, Mrs. Moyer, and Coach Yiz. When I think of teaching science to

children, I envision providing my students with what they need and giving them the opportunity

to learn in their own way.

Martin address constructivism as, “achieving cognitive equilibration by “fooling around”

with the situation, trying different ideas, doing different things, and checking out findings that

seems to be promising” (Martin, 24) This Is what I think of when I think of my classroom,
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twenty-some children fidgeting around with a light bulb, wire, and battery trying to get the light

bulb to light up. I envision a similar atmosphere to what we had in EDUC 344 when we were

doing this laboratory – genuine curiosity brought to light the entire time. Martin addresses

inquiry as the agent of constructivism (Martin, 24) This makes me reflect on the air lab we

conducted in class, where we were able to decide what objects we tested because we were

genuinely interested in understanding how a zip lock bag could support a human body. Professor

Smolleck in this situation is the exact kind of educator I hope to one-day mimic, as I think

teaching science through inquiry is essential.

Teaching science to children is something I view as a privilege. I credit this to my

education at Bucknell that I have learned that handouts, lectures, quizzes and tests are not the

most beneficial in terms of student development in the classroom. Instead, I have learned that the

way I have learned science until this point is not as beneficial as I am sure the teacher I have had

in the past thought. Through taking EDUC 344, I have learned that by inquiry is acquired when

you touch on the nature of science (Class Discussion, 8/28) This makes me think about the quote

from the Martin article I had cited earlier – the idea that teachers tend teach the way they were

taught (Martin, 13) I believe this to be true to a certain extent. I believe that those who were in

the same position as me- learning science in a traditional manner during our K-12 education- will

in turn teach children the same way they were taught if they chose to attend a college where

teaching science as inquiry is not stressed.

Thankfully, I have the opportunity to put this into practice during my time in both junior

block and student teaching. In terms of what I would like to improve on during these times, I

plan to focus on include feeling comfortable probing my students and being patient with my

students during time of trial and error. This is something I have seen Professor Smolleck
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demonstrate in class and can tell she has been practicing these for a long time. Though I will not

be as strong in these areas going into junior block and student teaching as Professor Smolleck, I

am committed to both of these. I feel like probing my students will be incredibly useful in

developing a relationship with my students and making them feel as if they belong, forming an

open and close kit relationship by asking open-ended questions and probing. I also feel as if

being patient with my students is also going to be something I need to be committed to. I feel

very passionately about working on this because I know how much I value patience in our

EDUC 344 classroom, and am confident others will appreciate it just as much as I do. When I

think of patience, I immediately think of Professor Sarah Mackenzie-Dawson. I really value her

patience in a classroom setting because I feel very safe and as if even if what I answer with is not

exactly what the answer is supposed to be, she is willing to listen in a very respectful way.

Although I have improvement points I am committed to focusing on during my time in

junior block and student teaching, there are areas in which I feel confident in my strengths. More

specifically, I feel as if I will be able to adjust to what I am teaching last minute if need be. For

example, if we are doing a laboratory but a student has a question about something that I did not

plan to talk about, I feel like I am very flexible with making adjustments to fit the class need if it

is within reason. I have witnessed Professor Smolleck do this exact thing in our EDUC 344

classroom, and this is something that I immediately gained respect for and hope to implement in

my classroom.

In addition to being flexible, I also feel as if one of my strengths include understanding

what the group of children I am working with is interested in and taking that into account while

planning. I feel as if location and the backgrounds of students really matters, especially in

teaching science. If I were teaching in New York City, I most likely would not be teaching a
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lesson that involves background knowledge of what it is like to live on a farm. However, if I

were to want to teach a lesson similar in central Pennsylvania, the students would most likely be

more invested in the lesson. I feel like this is one of my strengths because I have the opportunity

to observe my professors change the examples they used based on zip codes.

As I reflect back on my mission statement, ‘I am committed to giving 110% effort to

positively influence the lives of others and being a resource in whatever way is needed to guide

character building’, I feel as if the science platform I had just described directly reflects my

belief as a person and goal in life. I believe that teaching science is so much more than teaching

out of a textbook. I genuinely believe that science should not be about textbooks or worksheets, I

believe learning science as inquiry should be a hands on approach to foster curiosity for learning,

providing a safe space for children to accomplish their own thoughts that in turn will provide

children the ability to develop their own minds and character.