EiE Ambassadors are educators and administrators who connect, share, and support one another to enrich their knowledge and application of STEM and computer science pedagogy and instructional practices. We’re talking to our Ambassadors about their plans for the next school year and asking for their insight to share with you!
Scott Donnelly is an EiE Ambassador teaching 5th Grade STEM & Social Studies in Carnegie, PA. We asked Scott about the challenges and successes of his this past year. Here’s what he had to say:
Your name, school, grade(s) and subject(s) taught
Scott Donnelly, Carnegie Elementary in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, 5th Grade STEM/Social Studies.
What has been the biggest teaching challenge over the last year?
My biggest challenge was designing lessons that could be taught simultaneously to the students in my classroom and the students at home watching our livestream.
What strategies did you use to address the challenges? Did you find successful solutions?
First, I bought as many of the materials I could afford to send home for those students to participate in the many hands-on lessons we were doing in class. Second, when the actual student work was taking place, I tried to pair Zoom in the camera (for at home kids) with one of my stronger students in the classroom, so I could still move around my room and help the in-person students.
Reflecting on the 2020-21 school year, what lessons did you take away?
My biggest takeaway: greater empathy for what many students are dealing with in their home lives. , Poor internet service, dealing with younger siblings, less than ideal study environments, smoke detector battery alert beeping, pets, etc. I will keep all this in mind next time a student tells me they are tired, or they couldn't get work done at home.
Looking toward this school year, what are you excited for?
I am excited that ALL students will be in the classroom!
What's your usual back-to-school routine? Is it different this year?
My usual back to school routine is meeting my 3 sections of 5th graders with immediate collaboration challenges. I like to set the tone for how our year will work by putting them into small groups (with and without their 'friends') on day one. I hope to do this while still meeting current protocols. We still go over classroom procedures and expectations but it's not drilled on the first days of school. We also hope to have a Meet the Teacher night with parents live in person this year.
What skills are you focusing on with your classroom this year?
I will continue to focus on the C's: Collaboration, Communication, Creative Problem Solving and F.A.I.L.ing (First Attempt In Learning). I hate calling these 'soft skills' so I don't. haha.
If there are EiE units or activities you plan on using this year, which ones?
Improving the Play Dough Process for sure (I successfully adapted this for all online school last year!!), and hopefully the No Bones About It unit.. But, I really want to explore the possibility of the new EiE CS unit as I teach a big Coding/Intro to Robots unit now.
As you prepare for Fall 2021, what advice do you have for other educators?
Ease your expectations and realize most kids need to re-adapt to full classroom life as well. They had a tough year too, and to be honest with them about that.
Apply now to join the EiE Ambassador Program and share tips, lesson suggestions and more with a growing community of STEM-minded educators, like Scott!