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ISEC Teacher Rachel Barber

Above: ISEC teacher Rachel Barber and her class at Pojoaque 6th Grade Academy start a lesson in a Meaning Making Circle.

Synthesizing Complex Concepts 

After just returning from spring break, and in anticipation of PARCC testing, ISEC teacher Rachel Barber and her class at Pojoaque 6th Grade Academy wasted no time jumping right back into science. Ms. Barber convened a Meaning Making Circle to synthesize learning from the Electricity, Waves and Information Transfer module. 

In a prior lesson, students used Ohm’s law to determine the unknown resistance (measured in Ohms) of two resistors by measuring the voltage with a voltmeter and the electric current using an ammeter in a series circuit. 

Ohm’s law states that the current through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the voltage. From the equation, the students learned to use multiplication or division to calculate an unknown factor regarding an electrical current.

During Meaning Making, students refreshed their memories by reading out loud an informational text from the EWIT book. They discussed the relationship between amps and volts, what it means to be directly or inversely proportional, the difference between volts and amperes and why one would use an ammeter in milliAmps or Amps. They also talked about how the schematics they drew and labeled in their science notebooks are important to universally communicate a concept. 

“Why is the calculation for resistance in an electrical circuit even necessary?” Ms. Barber asks. 

“So you don’t overheat the circuit,” a student answers. 

“Exactly! Remember what happened to Samsung phones?”  

A problem is introduced on the white board and the students calculate the resistance the factors of 21 volts and 9 amps. They work out the calculation individually in their notebooks, rounding up to the nearest whole number, and share the results. 

Ms. Barber has taught for seven years, six of them at Pojoaque. She and co-teacher Mary Gonzales work collaboratively at the SGA, each teaching inquiry STEM to three classes.

“I love teaching here. The kids are kind to each other and willing to work hard. When the kids have to sit down, come together, and address each other, it gives them the power to be the teacher. I’m not just lecturing. It’s empowering to watch them get excited when they understand advanced concepts.”

Confidence, communication, and positivity are at the core of Ms. Barber’s teaching style. She feels prepared in part due to the professional development she and other ISEC teachers receive as an introduction to the grade-specific curriculum and materials, with added on-going classroom support. “I love the trainings. They have helped me understand and deliver the content correctly. It’s cross curricular from academic vocabulary to data analysis. It’s all inclusive.”

“Ms. Barber is an exceptional teacher, because the lessons are based on the students’ needs. She incorporates relevance for added understanding,” said ISEC Program Manager David Call. “The circle is a safe place to share out, ask questions, even get it wrong. Ms. Barber has that culture here, which takes time.”

Ms. Barber proudly shows off her students’ “one-pagers.” These personalized technical documents allow them to do further research, making connections beyond the ISEC lessons by adding fun facts and relevant graphics. The idea came from a similar language arts project that showcases creativity and deeper learning.