Heather Harrell is a 3rd and 4th grade teacher at Dixon Elementary School. This is her 8th year of teaching. She is a member of ISEC’s Teacher Leader Cadre.
What are the challenges of teaching science at the 3rd and 4th grade levels?
The main challenge of teaching science at this grade level is finding the time in our busy daily schedule to dedicate to all the preparation and follow-up that hands-on inquiry requires.
How has the ISEC curriculum helped you with those challenges?
The ISEC curriculum is a fantastic tool for engaging students and keeping them interested in science, as it sparks curiosity and provides them with excellent opportunities to explore and ask questions about the world.
Has the ISEC training helped you in your classroom with topics other than science? How?
Watching the level of excitement and engagement that the ISEC kits inspire in the students encourages me to include as much hands-on work in the classroom as possible. I also love the inquiry model and try to keep my students asking questions, no matter what subject we are focusing on.
What is the importance of inquiry based learning to you?
It encourages students to take ownership of their thoughts and ideas, and to engage in constructive dialogue. Students want to explore and ask questions naturally, but are often forced to sit passively for learning. They are much more engaged and likely to retain what they’ve learned when they are working at applying the information in real time, instead of digesting it as passive instruction.
How has being a part of ISEC’s Teacher Leader Cadre supported your growth as a teacher?
It is one of my favorite professional development activities. I love the camaraderie and support that I get in our meetings. The community is strong, and the other teachers are inspiring. I chose to pursue my National Board Certification after talking with another teacher in the Cadre who encouraged me to give it a try.
Other than ISEC, what else is going on in your teaching and personal life?
I’m honored to be New Mexico’s nominee for the PAEMST [Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching] award in science, and I’m waiting to hear if I will receive this prestigious award at the national level. I also completed all four components of my National Boards last year and am waiting to hear whether I will receive certification in December.
I am an avid beekeeper and former organic farmer, and work hard to create awareness around environmental stewardship. In the past, I’ve taken my class to the Grand Canyon as a part of our study of geology and my class has participated in the Global Warming Express program, which teaches about CO2 levels and our role in climate change. We went to the legislature to participate in a climate action day as a part of this program.