On-site at the Museum Institute for Teaching Science’s Southeast Region Summer Professional Development Institute, science concept models sit out on tables waiting for an audience of educators to use them. These models seem to be made from simple household items and represent an array of science concepts. Who made them?
Her name is Liz Moniz, Education/Outreach Director at the Lloyd Center for the Environment. Liz always loved science but had never considered teaching as a career until 1998, when she developed a passion for education by volunteering at the Lloyd Center. She pursued a career at the Lloyd Center, starting with an internship. Over the years, she worked her way into roles with more responsibilities (Educator/Naturalist, then Senior Educator) while also serving on the Tiverton, RI Tree Commission and the Tiverton, RI Conservation Commission. Now, she manages both on and off-site programming with an annually reach of up to 15,000 students, due to individualized school field trips and outreach to school districts like Dartmouth and Fall River.
One of Liz’s favorite programs is Feathery Focus, which includes monthly visits to Dartmouth schools. Lessons are cumulative so that students soar in the science of birds by the end of the school year. For Liz, the real reward is hearing students use science vocabulary to articulate their understanding of ornithology. Student enthusiasm inspires Liz to search for new activities and techniques that might enhance programs.
Self-described visual learner, Liz likes to create models to help her students conceptualize science topics. Her advice for educators who are interested in making science models is to search for prototypes online and then to tinker with easy-to-find materials to engineer their own designs.
“Working at a nonprofit has instilled in me the need to be creative with recycled/reused materials. I have a tendency to take things apart to save useful pieces,” Liz says, “I also enjoy working with students and teachers to build things. Whether a Sea Perch workshop with teachers or helping a student design blades for a wind turbine with the KidWind Kits, I love hands-on instruction.”
Since her models are simple and inexpensive to replicate, Moniz shares her ideas with teachers during Museum Institute for Teaching Science (MITS) Summer Professional Development Institutes (http://mits.org/summer-institutes/). For a MITS summer institute in 2015, she built a miniature LEGO® neighborhood with small wind-powered LED lights which could be used by teachers after creating designs for their KidWind turbines. Using Moniz’s model, the “town” lights up if the teachers’ designs are functional and effective. These student builders are able to see first-hand how wind power works, and they experience the challenges engineers face when developing efficient alternative energy.
During the 2016 Southeast Region Summer Professional Development Institute, Liz explained polarity by showing teachers her 3-D model of Earth’s magnetic field. The model consisted of a small jar filled with iron filings suspended in baby oil. In the middle of the jar was a magnet in a test tube. The iron filings could simply represent lines of force around the earth (the magnet), or a second magnet could be applied to the outside of the jar, pulling the iron filings towards it and mimicking how the moon influences Earth’s oceans.
Liz’s models helped teachers to envision Earth science concepts during the MITS institute this summer. Her ingenuity inspired them to be more creative while building their own models. Throughout her career at the Lloyd Center, Liz has developed and shared ideas with teachers participating in MITS programs.
MITS has partnered with the Lloyd Center for fifteen years. During that time, Liz has become a leader in hands-on inquiry-based education. She attributes this to working with MITS. She has taught Summer Professional Development Institutes and participated in multiple MITS Professional Development Series workshops. Through professional development offerings, Liz helps visiting teachers learn about Lloyd Center programs while she gains insight into a teacher’s classroom uses of their activities. Her connection to MITS has introduced her to unique inquiry-based activities, to the 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework as well as the Science and Engineering practices, and to successful methods of sharing information with teachers. Collaboration with MITS has helped Liz stay ahead of educational trends and has sparked new ideas that often turn into her next modeling project. As the seasons transition and new programs are conceptualized, the question is, “What science model will Liz build next?”
The Museum Institute for Teaching Science specializes in providing hands-on, minds-on, inquiry-based STEM professional development for formal and informal educators. For more information, visit www.mits.org or call 617-328-1515.