A Metaphor

An ecosphere is a sealed container of air, water, plants, and animals that lives as a mini-planet. This little bottle-world demonstrates how life depends on the interconnectedness of living and nonliving things for survival. "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe", a John Muir quote, is at the heart of my teaching. I regularly ask students to look for the connections to their lives in the work they do in my classroom. And as a teacher, I can not teach science without also teaching civics, history, math, art, language arts… as they are all linked together.

In teaching science I hope to help children see the beauty and wonder of our natural environment and to instill within them an understanding of the complex interactions of science and life. By layering the science with other disciplines I believe the science will become more alive and make more sense for the student. I believe that when we connect our hands with our ideas we move our thinking. Thus, I believe that physical manipulation of materials in science is critical to gaining depth of understanding. It is not enough to watch and hear; as learners we need to touch. To further the eye-hand-brain connection, my students are required to make detailed drawings of observations and are expected to write at length about what they notice.

My metaphor for teaching is gardening and this ecosphere is a miniature model of a garden, as no garden is without plants and animals, air and water. I think of the students as diverse and unique as the plants living on our planet. Each has a special niche to fill and a role to play in the association with life. Each has different needs and preferences for growing strong and contributing all they can. And each has different gifts or fruits to offer. Some plants may be lovely to look at and others may be thorny, but they all have their place on this planet. It is our job as teacher to uncover the requirements of each individual so as to enable the student to succeed to the greatest degree possible. As teachers we need to understand the elements we can modify for the students. Some students thrive in one environment while others may have a different learning style. To meet all their distinctive and wide-ranging needs we need to make their learning visible and give the students several entry points for discovery. I hope that I accomplish this by recognizing each student as the individual that they are and by designing lessons that have multiple points of entry and alternative assessments.

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