All posts by Tiarra



This is what I was told on my first day of Integrating Science and Technology class. “Hands on is not enough.” A student must also be engaged in the lesson. This seems like it would be common sense, however, it is a vital point that I had never given much thought to. The following is a part of my response to Eric’s thread in our class discussion this week on Blackboard, in which he pointed out the importance of engaging a learner:


The other point you reiterated, which was stated in class, was the idea that “hands on” isn’t enough.  You have to engage a learner.  It makes perfect sense, but I never really thought about it, until we heard it in class.  I had one of those “a ha” moments.  It made me go back through and realize how that has been applied in our classes at Warner.  So far, all of my classes have been over 3 hours long, but I am always surprised at how quickly the time flies.  My classes have been back to back.  I am in a classroom (most of the time) for 7 hours, and it has never really bothered me.  However, I remember undergrad classes, as well as high school classes, where an hour was agonizing.  This is when it hit me; our professors have successfully engaged us in learning in every class.  They are modeling what we should be doing in our future classrooms, as well as when we take part in professional development.
After class, I really started paying attention to how people were engaged in everyday situations, especially while they were learning.

This picture is an example of how my Mia was engaged in learning. My oldest had been studying bugs all week at school. She came home one day, and insisted on drinking everything from the cup in the picture. She also had to use a straw. I was too busy to really ask any questions, and assuming she was just proud of a craft she did at school, I let her do what she wanted. At dinner time I realized what the cup and straw actually represented. Before dinner, Mia had found her butterfly wings, and put them on. I again didn’t really pay much attention, since my daughters love to dress up. However once we sat down, she dramatically drank from her cup with her straw. She then commented on how tasty the flower was, and asked if I thought it was cool to be having dinner with a Monarch Butterfly. She then told me about how nectar nourishes her, and she explained how butterflies eat. To engage a classroom of children who were 5 years old, Mia and her classmates were encouraged to become living models, and were guided to reflect on what they were doing as “butterflies”.

Another example, I was reminded of while having a conversation with my 8th grade science teacher (Yes we still keep in touch). I had remembered a lesson where she simulated early earth. As students, we had blind folds on, and were told to think about, based on what we had already learned, what early Earth would have been like, as if we were there. I remember picturing a volcanic ridden landscape. As I did this, the smell of methane wafted in the air. I felt heat on me, and smelled ammonia. There was also a zapping noise I kept hearing. When I discussed this experience as an adult with my previous teacher, she let me know that she had used methane in a flask with a stopper and wafted it towards each student. She had also used a very bright heat lamp, a small amount of ammonia and again waved her hand over the top toward the students. Also, she had used a high frequency coil to make a “Zapping” electricity sound for the lightning. It had made her day that I could recall that lesson almost 15 years later. The reason for that, I feel, is because she had successfully engaged every students’ mind with the lesson. She obviously wasn’t able to take us to early Earth to let us experience it, however, in her own way, she brought early Earth to us. With this I leave you with Captain Picard of the USS Enterprise


Meta-Reflection: Reflecting on Reflecting


Where do I begin?

As I sit here listening to the song Fancy, by Iggy Azalea, that will forever remind me of Jillian, Jessica, and Ceb, I reflect on the great group of individuals I just left. I reflect on how I got to know these individuals, and how we all share the unique experience of growing, learning, and preparing together to be future teachers of science. I’m reflecting because that is what blogging makes you do.

I would like to reflect back to before the class, Integrating Science & Literacy, actually started. The time when I received an email from Jo Ann, letting me know I had an assignment that was due before the 1st day of our class. This made me slightly nervous. I could tell, based on the instructions of the assignment, telling us to check out the blogs of cohorts in the past, that I was going to be expected to maintain a blog.

I had never blogged before. I had read many blogs, but I never personally created my own blog. On the blogs I have read prior to this class, all I did was read them. I didn’t interact by posting any comments.
So, what was there to be nervous about? Blogs are very personal. They are like little windows in to your mind, and they let people know your inner workings. I have always enjoyed seeing the way others think, and their intriguing perspectives, even if they didn’t mirror my own. However, allowing others to peek in to my window was an obstacle I had to get over.

Before moving to Rochester 3 years ago, I was an open book. I would have had no problem blogging, and probably would have blogged a lot more than what I did for this class. However, when I moved to the Rochester area, due to experiences, situations, and lack of family and friends close by, I kept to myself. I didn’t have people whom I could express my love of science to, or debate on new topics and ideas.

When I did my first blog, and I knew my classmates would be able to read it, I was uneasy. What were they going to think? I knew I was one of the oldest, and I assumed I was the only one with kids, so I felt out of place. I didn’t think I had anything too interesting to say, that anyone would really care about.

Fortunately, I was very wrong. In class, I realized I was part of an awesome cohort, who shared very similar interests, as well as concerns. Blogging introduced me the unique and amazing individuals of the cohort. It allowed me to see how they interpreted matters of science, as well as discussions in class, which at times really helped me out, and gave me new perspectives on ideas, and topics.

Integrating Science & Literacy, was a great building block to start my path of becoming a teacher of science. The class really opened my eyes to the true meaning of scientific literacy. Through blogging, I was able to reflect on these meanings and lessons, see how they integrated in to my life, and think about how I could possibly use them in my future classroom. I was also able to get ideas through others’ blogs.

Blogging has also allowed me to get to know the individuals of our cohort on a different level. Their ideas and overall character really stands out in their blogs, and in each one, I see individual characteristics that will make them powerful teachers.

I look forward to working with you all. Enjoy your 3 day vacation.


Different Ways of Thinking

For the Summer A Semester, I am taking, of course, EDU 487: Integrating Science & Literacy, and ED 447: Disability and Schools. With only 3 classes left for each class, I would really like to dedicate a post to something I think about almost every time I have these two classes, or do homework for these classes. Every week, I contemplate blogging about it, then something else comes up. So here it goes:

The material, principles, and ideas for these classes, very strongly relate to one another.

Many times, while I’m reading assignments, or when I engage in class discussion for one class, I am reminded of the other. There have even been times when I bring up readings in one discussion, only to realize the reading was for the other class, and no one knows what I am talking about. This does make sense, since in ED 447, we discuss how the struggles of individuals with disabilities is very similar to many other minority groups, and in EDU 487 we talk about how we want to reach ALL students, and discuss ways to do this.

Today we watched a video in ED 447 that I feel really relates to the Cohorts trying to find innovative ways to bring science to every student. Alanna reiterated this thought, when she said in class “I know how I think, but I want to learn other ways of thinking.” I hope this helps. The following is a TED talk by Temple Grandin, a well-known livestock handling designer who has autism. In this talk, Temple goes over different types of thinking. She really advocates for science and technology, and keeping kids interested and engaged. She makes some really good points, on how language tends to cover up visual thinking, which is something to really think about. One of my favorite things from this talk is the idea that “the world needs different minds to work together (TED, 2010).”

I hope you all enjoy!

TED. 2010. Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds. Retrieved by

Never too busy for lessons…

It was a busy, busy week. I am very excited about all of the different investigations going on in our Integrating Science and Literacy Class. I can’t wait to see the final outcomes! I don’t know if I mentioned this yet, but I really enjoy every second I’m in that class. Not only do I really like the subject material, but our cohort is awesome. What a great group of individuals. Anyway, besides coming up with investigable questions, and reflecting on the best tools to use in my own classroom someday, I attended my oldest daughter’s Pre-K graduation, and my youngest daughter’s first dance recital. Amongst our busy weekend, we had I guess what you call a life lesson, or maybe a lesson about life, and human interaction with nature.

We go to the library a lot, and I let both of the girls pick out books. A couple weeks ago, Emmie, my youngest, grabbed a book called Where Once There Was A Wood, by Denise Fleming. It was a great book, which paints a beautiful description of all of the happenings in a wood, and then in the end it is destroyed by developments. (Sorry for the spoiler, but it is a 5 minute read) This of course got Mia asking 100 questions before bedtime. I ended quickly with it going back to us always needing to be conscious of the impacts of our actions, and who/what they impact, whether it be how we treat/talk to people, or what we do to the environment.

Well two days ago, we heard a constant bleating from the fenced in area of our yard. We went to check it out, and it was a fawn, maybe a week old. Mia was concerned. I explained to her that the fawn was calling to its mom and not to worry because the deer always go in and out of that area. We made sure the gate was open on both ends. However, the fawn is still in there. No matter how many times it walks past the open gate, it can’t figure out how to leave, and it is constantly crying. Tonight before bed, Mia brought up the book, and told me she was really going to start thinking about her actions. She said she never thought a simple fence, with open gates, would keep a baby from its mom. A little sad, I told her to carry that lesson with her, but I am sure the baby will be OK. We don’t hear it cry at night, so maybe the mom goes to it at night.

I realize I mention my girls a lot in these blogs. I think it is because, as much as I relate my everyday life to science, I also relate it to teaching. My girls are obviously my everyday life, and I feel I learn a lot about teaching from them. But that can be another blog, at another time. Have a wonderful week!



You might look at this picture and see a pile of dirt in the yard. Cool, I guess. Actually, this “pile of dirt” was the centerpiece in which my daughters began to use components of scientific and engineering practices.

I relate my life to science all of the time. While going about my day, it will inevitably happen. An everyday occurrence will make me stop and think, “Wow, that reminds me of this theory,” or “Ha, that formula makes sense now.” I don’t do this on purpose, it just happens. While starting the Spring Semester at U of R, I have now noticed subjects we talk about in class happening at home.

In class, we have been discussing and reading about Scientific and Engineering Practices, and recently, we have been focusing on asking questions and defining problems. Well, living with an inquisitive 5 year old, and a curious 2 year old, I see this happening all of the time. In fact, it happened yesterday.

While outside, Mia, my oldest, called to me in a bit of a panic.

“Mommy, what is that turtle doing? I think it is dying.”

Now, anyone who has experienced/witnessed birth, might understand where she was coming from. The turtle had dug a hole in our front yard, and was laying eggs. Something Mia never seen, so it concerned her. I explained to her what was happening, and tried to answer her questions as best as I could. She really focused on why the turtle put the eggs in the hole. I explained it was to keep the eggs safe. But to her, that hole wasn’t safe. After suggesting some creative ideas, she asked if she could put a fence around the hole to help protect them. She had asked questions from observations, defined what she considered a problem, and wanted to fix it.

The whole time Mia and I were talking, Emmie, my youngest remained quiet. What happened next reminded me of the Kepler and Brahe example used in Southerland’s Teaching science to every child: Using culture as a starting point. The example I am referring to, is when the two scientist used the same set of data, but interpreted it in two very different ways.

Emmie peered up at me with a disgusted look on her face and said “Mommy, I don’t like eggs. Emmie doesn’t eat
turtle poop anymore.”


Settlage, J. & Southerland S. (2011). Teaching science to every child: Using culture as a starting point.
New York, NY: Routledge.

Words From a Stranger

It is funny the conversations you find yourself in sometimes.

From a young age, it was instilled in me to listen. Over and over, I would hear, if you would just quiet down, you might learn something. Think before you speak. Take in the situation around you, reflect on what you have to say, and then say it. This was tough for me to learn. I was a talker, with no filter. But this changed with time, and lessons, and mistakes turned into lessons. I have learned that listening, and fighting back the urge to speak, has allowed me to gain more knowledge, and insight, that I could have possibly missed out on.

So why am I blogging about this?

Well while I was waitressing on Memorial Day, I had 3 people come in that I hadn’t seen before. Through small talk, I found out they were not from the area, but we would be seeing more of them because they were in town for business. It was a slow night, so I was able to engage them in more conversation, than I usually do with customers. I asked where they were from and what type of business. They were from Texas and of course the business was “confidential”. All I was allowed to know was that it had to do with Clean Energy, and “my generation” would really appreciate what they are trying to do.

Now this is when it happened. The urge started coming. I had a pretty good idea what he was here for, and it was controversial. But, I kept quiet. He had passion in him, and that is something I respect. I appreciate passion.

He had some interesting things to say. His wife, who sat beside him, was from Central America where the pollution was so bad when she was a child, she had constant bronchitis. It wasn’t until she went to the jungle with her mom that it disappeared.

He went on to talk about how his generation didn’t think about long term effects on the planet, and for that he apologized. He expressed how my generation are the ones who need to save this world. He stated that he believes in us, and from the look in his eyes, I believed him. To him, we have all of the tools right in front of us, there was just one key thing we needed to do.

Now, so far I have been paraphrasing, but what he said next is verbatim “you just need to unite through science. It is there. A greater understanding of science will save this world.” I smiled because I agreed. I then finally decided it was my turn to add to the conversation. I told him that one of the reasons I decided to go in to teaching was because I want the upcoming generations to understand how important science is. We need them to comprehend science.

I also let him know that Dr. Gary Lash, the shale king, would have disowned me as a student, if I didn’t know that “clean energy” most likely meant fracking. I told him I knew he was most likely up here because of the Marcellus Shale, but I understood what confidential meant, and he didn’t have to tell me about his business. He had a look of surprise, and then laughed because I hit the nail on the head. Before he left, he said he looked forward to more discussions.

I thought about this conversation on my way home. What he was saying, related to everything we discussed in class, especially the importance of science literacy. It is random conversations like the one I had last night, which remind me that I am right where I belong, in the career path I have chosen. When I get that feeling of excitement, or any strong emotion towards a topic, I know the choice I made is the right one. I am excited to be a teacher of science, and forever a learner!

On a different note:

We got to go to Corbett’s Glen this weekend

This picture relates to something Jillian mentioned in my previous post.  My 2 year old doing her own science inquiry (even though she is not expressing it vocally)

Life as a Scientist: From Fascination to Understanding

There was never a specific moment in which I was called to science. I feel it has always been with me since birth, and possibly conception. I want to believe it is in everybody. I was just fortunate enough to be surrounded by the right people, situations, and environments that kept the passion for science very alive within me.

There is a story my grandma tells about my sister and I. She was about 3, and I was 4. My sister had turned to my mother, and asked the common question on why grass was green. I quickly told her to not ask our mom. She would lie and say it was God who made the grass green. I then informed her it was due to chlorophyll and photosynthesis.

I have faith, and I consider myself spiritual, but from a young age I naturally questioned everything. That is probably why my mother quickly took me out of Catholic school after a requested meeting in Pre-K. This was caused by my inability to stop challenging the teacher during a lesson on Creation when she brushed off my question about evolution. At that time, I had no idea it was a hot topic.

As small children, my sisters and I lived with my mom, grandma, and aunt. All of whom were nurses. This inevitably made biology my first science. I would look through all of their nursing books, occasionally attend nursing classes when schedules conflicted and there were no babysitters, and I would help them study.

Throughout school, I excelled in my science classes. In 4th grade, I was the only one in my district who received a perfect score on the NYS Science Exam. I continued to do well throughout middle school and high school. I had the GREATEST science teachers. They were all so different, but had such a love for what they taught. It made learning fun and exciting.

At 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do, or what I could do in the field of science. Earth Science was my favorite class, so I decided to pursue a major in Geology. I loved it! The courses, the faculty, the classmates, the research, the internships, the field study in South Dakota’s Black Hills. I had found my niche in life.

I was particularly drawn to hydrogeology and geomorphology. This started in an introductory course called Thirsty Planet, which addressed water issues of the world. Desalination, drought, countries having water wars, villages being forced to relocate so the direction of a river could be manipulated; my eyes were forced open. We even met a woman from India, whose whole day was focused around getting water to her family. Water unfit for bathing, let alone consumption. From that moment on, the professor who taught that content became my mentor. My internships became water intensive. He played a big role in me learning how to write as a scientist, think as a scientist, and truly understand the importance of science in the world in which we live.

When science is in my life, whether I’m working on a project, or answering questions on a fossil someone found, I always have a fulfilling sense of purpose. However, two big accomplishments stand out. The first was in an annual water report for Chautauqua County’s Waternet. Fellow interns and I compiled data for analysis from wells and creeks. My accomplishment occurred when I went from being a part of the “et al” to being the first name listed as the author. Another transpired when I was the first student to receive the Florence Eikenburg Scholarship. This scholarship honors a wonderful woman, who was not allowed to major in science due to a lack of women in the field. She didn’t let that stop her, and found other ways to follow her passion.

I took a small hiatus from science when I found out I was pregnant. Science was put on the back burner, but it wasn’t completely gone. When my oldest was 1, she was able to let people know the “rock” she carried around was actually a crinoid fossil.

Now the mother of two beautiful girls, I find life’s enjoyments through them. I try to share with them my love of science. While looking for fairies in the woods, they learn about old growth, how creeks carve out an area, why some areas are wet while others are dry. While riding in the car, they’ve heard about the Catskill Delta, and how this area was covered in warm tropical waters millions of years ago. My oldest likes to tell me about the giant fish she pretends to see as she gazes out the window. These conversations, as well as the excitement I derive during any random science based discussion, made me realize how much I’ve missed actively participating in science. This is what lead me to teaching; another thing I feel has always been a part of me.
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