Katy Chase has bug viewers, digital microscopes, binoculars and GPS navigation systems at her disposal when she shares her knowledge about environmental science with the community.
Using two recently purchased environmental science kits, Chase is one of 15 University of Mary Washington students teaching local families at the England Run Library as part of a partnership with UMW.
She aims to ignite in them a similar passion and appreciation for science that she holds dear.
“In schools teachers might be a little afraid of science and kids aren’t always exposed to different tools and materials related to the sciences. They learn a lot from textbooks,” said the environmental science and Master of Science in elementary education student.
She’s already spread her love for science to Brazil, where as an intern, she taught environmental science in public schools. After she graduates, Chase plans to continue in the classroom, either home or abroad.
Using the kits, Chase creates lesson plans and uses them in the England Run Library MakerLab. The Lab also includes a 3-D printer, engineering kits and robotics equipment on loan from UMW.
All of this is possible because of Professor of Education George Meadows’ interest in teaching all students about science and technology in cool and creative new ways and a philosophy called place-based education.
“[Elementary] students often will learn about things like the Amazon and very exciting environments like the desert and volcanoes, as well as exotic animals like whales, sharks and tigers,” said Meadows. “Place-based education would say instead of focusing on all of that, focus on what’s local. The animals and plants you see locally and understand how they live, how they interact with their environment, how they interact with one another, understand that first and then you can start learning about the more exotic examples and also have a better grounding to deal with some of the problems like global warming or endangered species.”
Chase and Meadows are both proponents of this teaching philosophy. In fact, Meadows felt that Chase would be the perfect student to implement it and recommended she participate for that reason.
At its core, the idea is to get kids outdoors and learning.
Chase takes students outside to catch bugs and examine them through the bug viewers. Students collect water and dirt samples to study them under the microscope and explore the woods outside of the library using GPS navigation.
Meadows said Chase’s science background gives her an edge.
“That’s a great foundation to build on,” he said. “Adding place-based education instruction will insure that she will be even more dynamic in the classroom.”
Said Chase, “I love the opportunity to get kids interested in science.”