Name: Cara Baldree
Role: Science Specialist
School: Salt Lake District
Located: Salt Lake City, Utah
Number years teaching: 11
What do you teach and to what grade(s)?
Science, Grades 3-6
Why do you like what you teach?
Earth science has probably grown to become a favorite area, but I really enjoy most everything related to science.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
Although I floundered a little in high school and college with deciding upon my future occupation, I really wanted to be a teacher as a child. In fact, I remember saving my papers from school so that I could teach my invisible students at home with my own chalkboard. Ironically, I remember asking for a microscope for Christmas in elementary school. Now, I have the best of both worlds: teaching children science!
Why do you like to teach with hands-on products?
Where do I start? Really, how do you not teach with hands-on products? About 90 percent of the students I teach are in poverty and many speak multiple languages. So, I firmly believe that science should be a whole-body experience. Anything that children can touch and experience makes science meaningful and engaging, and it connects everything. Since most of my students have such limited experiences with our world, I try to bring the world to them. Hands-on teaching provides those rich experiences.
How does using hands-on products improve the students’ learning experiences?
You can read your car manual a hundred times, but you don’t really have the full experience (or really know much) until you practice driving the car. I believe that is the same principle with teaching. Once a child experiences science, he or she remembers and understands significantly better. The less talking the adult does, and the more exploration and talking the children do, the students’ learning experience grows significantly.
How long have you been using Pitsco Education products?
I’m a new user. I came across Pitsco last school year as I was implementing our school’s first STEM summer camp. I was researching what is available and was excited to find some cool products on Pitsco.com.
What is your favorite Pitsco Education product and why?
Since I am a new follower to Pitsco Education, I don’t know. But I am really excited to learn more about robotics and engineering.
What's your greatest teaching accomplishment?
My greatest teaching accomplishments involve individual students. Since I work with a highly diverse population, I am surrounded with fascinating cultures and experiences. A few years ago, I felt compelled to try to get a special scholarship for a specific student. This amazing student was previously my third-grade student and was a refugee from Thailand. He came to the United States in second grade. He was a top math student in third grade. By fourth grade, he was a top reader in his class. I had the privilege of being his sixth-grade science teacher. He worked harder than most, was always kind, and had incredible potential. One day I had this repeated thought telling me I needed to help this boy get admitted to a private school. So, I made the necessary contacts. Everything worked out perfectly. He was admitted to the McGillis School [in Salt Lake City] on a full scholarship. I knew this amazing refugee boy was destined for special things in his life and that I needed to play a part getting him there. I’m excited to see how education impacts his life.
Visit www.pitsco.com/scholarship for details about the scholarship or to nominate an educator you know.