Story 05: Memoirs of a Bubble Blower

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Slow-Cooked Curricula

Written by Bernie Zubrowski

I continued working with museum-affiliated, community-based afterschool programming but unfortunately funding for the extended field trip museum programs ran out in the early 1980s. The opportunity to work with a large group of the same students over multiple sessions had been very valuable. I discussed with the museum managers the possibility of continuing my "lab work" in a Boston city school classroom as part of my regular museum work. They agreed it was a worthwhile effort. I contacted several teachers and principals who allowed me come into fourth and fifth grade classrooms several times a week over the course of a school year. Over an eight-year period, several teachers invited me into their classroom and worked along with me in the testing of different topics. In these arrangements, I spent the entire school year with one class and its teacher during which time I spent several weeks on one topic and then moved on to another. Over the course of the school year five to six topics were tested.

This work was valuable for a number of reasons. It allowed me to continue developing new activities for more books to be published, and I developed a real appreciation for the challenges of teaching elementary school children. This particularly helped me to develop the skills needed to manage discussions with children about what they were discovering in the activities and what they thought about these experiences. Some years I would repeat a similar set of activities with a new group of students in an attempt to refine the activities as well as to help me think about how all these activities could be used to introduce basic science concepts. Each succeeding year I came to a deepening realization of the complexity of what it means to teach and the great challenges of designing meaningful science experiences for children.

Working in one classroom, I tried out activities for topics such as Mirrors, Shadows, Waves, Balancing Toys, Air and Water Movement, Tops and Yo-yos. I ended up trying out similar activities on one topic five or six times. It was an iterative process where I gradually narrowed down the most effective and educational activities and discovered the best ways to sequence them.

Next: Early Research about the Role of Play in Learning