At Texas Woman's University, Science Education Program Coordinator Mandy Biggers, Ph.D., is sharing her research findings and supporting educators — one lecture, training and workshop at a time.
“I've really transitioned a little bit more from using EiE in my classroom and my research to being more of a professional development provider,” Mandy said. Her wide variety of experience with EiE resources as both a classroom researcher and teacher educator makes her expertise as a Certified EiE Educator invaluable. “Any time that I can get in front of teachers and show them EiE’s amazing kits and products, I love doing that.”
While using EiE in her research with a group of fifth grade students, Mandy used the Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters with her research partner. They introduced local water issues and taught the students about how water filtration worked in their city, even going to visit a local water quality treatment plant on a field trip.
“We brought in place-based education with the science, with the engineering and the writing that the kids were doing about those topics just blew me away,” Mandy said. “Looking at the writing that we got, the depth that the kids really understood those issues and the science behind it, and how the water was filtered. The depth of understanding, looking across those disciplines was absolutely something I had never seen before. I couldn't believe how engaged the kids were, how invested they were.”
As she transitioned to teaching educators how best to implement EiE in their own classrooms, Mandy had several key insights to replicate that level of engagement.
“Every time I try to do a new kit that I've never done before, I think it is so important for educators to try the experiments themselves. Do the engineering challenges before you get in front of the kiddos. Because as we all know, it doesn't always go the way you plan,” Mandy said. “It's so important to have that experience on your own, building it like a student. And that's why I think our PD model is so good when teachers come to the workshop and they experience it the way that a learner would, they get to put themselves in the shoes of students and see where the struggles are and see where the frustrations lie.”
She explained that, in her experience, educators who experience the kits themselves have the knowledge of how to help the kids push through and use their perseverance because they know what's on the other side.
“The other idea is that failure is part of the process, the idea that failure, like changing our kid's mindset, that failure is not a bad thing. We want to test to the point of failure,” Mandy said. “We want to fail so many times that we know how many ways it can't work, so that we can get to that way that it can.”
Part of the engineering design process modeled in all of EiE’s units specifically includes testing and retesting, allowing students opportunities to think outside the box and try creative solutions.
“That's what I love about those engineering challenges is seeing all the different results that come out because that's not what we always get in science,” Mandy said. “Sometimes in science class, we're doing verification labs. We're all trying to get to the same conclusion, but that's, what's so beautiful about EIE and about engineering is that seeing that creativity and variety of the solutions that the students come up with allows them to shine in so many ways that we don't get to see on a normal lab or a normal lecture class”
To see more from Dr. Mandy Biggers, our professional development specialists and other #EiEAmbassador STEM journeys, check out @EiE_org on Twitter!