Alyse DeWitt Buckalew is a science teacher at Pine View Middle School in Land O’ Lakes, FL. Last year, she coached a grade 4-6 science team that won 1st place nationally and was honored at the ExploraVision Awards Weekend in Washington, DC.
Q: What are the benefits of participating in the program?
A: Too many to mention—aside from getting to explore real world problems! My students learned all about teamwork, delegating tasks, and understanding the problem solving process. Those are skills the students are starting to develop and will carry them through life.
Q: How do you help students brainstorm ideas?
A: I had the lucky job of working with three middle school students who are very passionate and motivated about science. I simply served as a sounding board for the team where I told them how I interpreted their ideas and offered constructive feedback. The team brainstormed their own original STEM ideas and I coached them along the way.
Buckalew’s winning team proudly presents their signed certificates at a school award ceremony.
Q: Is ExploraVision part of your school district’s curriculum?
A: In our school, ExploraVision is considered a powerful, extra credit project completed after school. We were fortunate that our mentor, Heather, was a team parent and former academic science competition winner herself. Overall, I view extra credit as a good initiative to get involved.
Q: Do you use the Next Generation Science Standards in your classroom?
A: In Florida, we use a customized version of NGSS tweaked specifically for our state’s various climates and science issues.
Students from Buckalew’s team proudly staffed their booth during an exclusive science fair for their state’s elected officials. Learn more about the team’s The Green Tablet and how it will reduce e-waste.
Q: How do you keep your team motivated throughout the ExploraVision process?
A: I was fortunate to have such a motivated team centered on a student-directed idea. I believe the students were enthusiastic because they knew they could be a driving force of change in the world. However, I coached them along with even more enthusiasm and support when they needed help.
Q: Do you have advice for first-time coaches?
A: My students were legitimately excited about a solving a real-world problem. From my perspective, other coaches’ students will start to see the connections beyond the classroom and into the real world, which is invaluable.
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