“Sometimes in the age of testing everything is in multiple choice format, and that is not the way the world is,” she said. “(Her approach) lets the kids see themselves as scientists working on real-world things.”
Kaiser will be bringing some “real-world” data to her Pine Middle School classroom this fall when she returns from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Beginning today, she will spend two weeks as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NNOA) Teacher at Sea. Each year 26 teachers are selected for the Teacher at Sea program and Kaiser is only the second Nevada teacher to be selected.
“I have wanted to apply for a long time, but it is a major commitment with some challenging obligations,” she said. “They challenge (teachers) to create lessons using national standards that are rigorous and engaging. They will pool together all the data we collect and encourage teachers to incorporate it into their lessons and the kids can start solving real problems.”
Kaiser will be aboard a NNOA ship studying and collecting data about fish habitat use, coral reef conditions and ways to examine and preserve these elements. She is particularly interested in the bleached coral zones the group will be examining, which is where the coral has lost color and become white.
“They have been mapping the coral for 16 years, finding the bleached coral and studying what causes it. We will also get to see some sonar mapping during the night and maybe go snorkeling,” she said. Kaiser will also be monitoring fish habitats from pre-placed stations that the NOAA has spent years placing throughout her region of study.
Kaiser received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno before she went on to become a teacher, a decision she said likely made her a good candidate for the Teacher at Sea program.
“I think they are looking for people with a strong science background and this is a chance to put that knowledge to work,” she said. “I don’t regret the decision to get my biology degree and not take a job in that field. I think I am better teacher because of it.”
Upon her return to Reno and Pine Middle School, Kaiser will be continuing to encourage students to apply the scientific method daily while utilizing the school’s garden. She said her students are able to view the life cycles of plants and vegetables, making them more engaged and more inquisitive in the field.
“The more they are out there observing the more questions they can come up with. I let them investigate, research and answer their own questions,” Kaiser said. “The theme of using real science, the scientific method and seeing themselves as scientists will set the tone for the year.”
Kaiser said she feels that there are several teachers in Washoe County School District who are doing excellent work and are going unnoticed, making the opportunity to travel to Florida all the more special.
Kaiser arrives in the Florida Keys today and will be doing frequent blog posts, featuring stories and photographs, on the NOAA Teacher at Sea website. You can check in with her at teacheratsea.wordpress.com/category/susan-kaiser/.