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BSIE 2010: Session 1

Paul Grobstein's picture

Brain, Science, and Inquiry-Based Education
K-12 Summer Institute 2010



  Session 1

Education, inquiry, conversation


  • What do you bring to the institute?  What do you hope to get out of it?  In what ways are you usefully similar and usefully different from other institute participants? 
  • After discussion, post some of your thoughts in the forum area below.  Remember to log in before posting.  And remember that you are posting not only for colleagues in the institute but for a general audience. 

Getting started thinking together about common concerns

  • Unreflective thoughts - the observations
  • Small group discussion - based on the observations, what's good/less good about education, in your own classroom, in general?  what do we agree/not agree on?
  • Large group discussion - based on the observations, what's good/less good about education, in your own classroom, in general?  what do we agree/not agree on? 

Based on your experiences to date and the discussions above, post your current thoughts about the following in the forum area below

What purposes do you hope your classroom serves?  What roles do you expect teachers and students to play in achieving those purposes?  Can you imagine ways in which your classroom achievements and/or  aspirations might be improved in the future? in which educational achievements and/or aspiration in general might be improved in the future?  What role might science/inquiry/conversation play in this?


Mattie Davis's picture

Session 1

This is my first day in the Summer Institute 2010.  I just got accepted.  I know that a study about "The Brain, Science, and Inquiry " will prove to be a interesting topic that will probably cover ideas of significant value in the areas of teaching not only Science, but a vast variety of subjects to students.    

kgould's picture

Time flies when you're having

Time flies when you're having fun. I guess that's part of the reason why I can't believe that I'm going to be a senior English major, Biology minor this coming school year. 

My name is Kate Gould, I grew up in Massachusetts, and moved to California when I first came to Bryn Mawr College. Like bridging two different sides of the country, I'm interested in the Institute because I see it as a means of bridging two different groups of studies: the Humanities and the Sciences. Moreover, science writing, a heavy interest of mine, seems to be one of the main ways in which to help "non-scientists" appreciate and take an interest in science. Likewise, approaching non-fiction in a creative way--more like a novel than a dry lab report--might help "scientists" enjoy literature more. 

The discussion that we had was really interesting to me not only because it was great to hear about everyone's different experiences that have brought them here, but also because a lot of the things that were said related back to my own interests and experiences.

Pluralism and perspective, being in one state of mind and then another, abruptly, and seeing things or viewing things in a way that you never expected-- I know how that feels. I think most people can. But as an individual with a rather quirky brain (and a quirky body [SLE]) I think I can truly relate to the idea that sometimes we think things that we never expected-- and how that can lead to new and interesting discoveries. 

jpfeiffer's picture

Introduction of a Summer Intern...

My name is Jenna Pfeiffer and I am one of the interns for the 2010 Summer Institute. I am a rising junior majoring in anthropology and minoring in biology. I applied to work as an intern for this summer because I have a large interest in the apparent dichotomy that exists between students who label themselves as 'English' students and 'science' students. I always found it extremely interesting to listen to the opposition of friends who labeled themselves as ‘science’ students to take an English course and vice versa.  More so, I was always interested in ways of showing the overlap between the two rather than regarding them as two entirely different disciplines.

Another aspect of education that I find particularly interesting is how to make the classroom accessible for all students.  This goes hand in hand with the idea of eliminating barriers that exist within the classroom.

From this morning, I found the idea of finding the ‘right’ school for a particular individual very interesting.  Having attended public school throughout my life before enrolling at Bryn Mawr, I have not been exposed to private schools. I assume that I was under the (wrong) impression that schools such as private schools would be compatible for all students.  After our discussion this morning and discovering this is not the case, it caused me to think differently about private schools and public schools and how to place students in their proper learning environment.

I am extremely excited after the morning introductions to work with such a diverse group of teachers and I look forward to developing many of my preliminary thoughts and ideas with them!






RecycleJack Marine's picture

Who is Jacob (Jack) Marine

Who is Jacob Marine?

My name is Jacob Marine and I go by the nickname Jack. This is my fourth summer instituite at Bryn Mawr College. I have been teaching for twelve years, following twenty years in the apparel business. I have been teaching in Philadelphia most of my career, mostly at charter schools. For the past eight years I have been a science teacher. I am an avid organic gardener and animal lover. I have grown delicious tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and squash this summer. My pet box  turtle is also enjoying her new habitat- in my garden.

I love inspiring children to explore the world around them and to find out how they affect the planet. After twelve years working at schools in the inner city environment, I am going to start teaching at an independent private school outside of the city this fall. I bring to the institute a perspective of what it's like being a white middle class male teaching in the inner city- its complexities, frustrations and realities. I also have a lot to share about gardening organically.

I live in Bala Cynwyd with my wife of 25 years, and with my 17 year old daughter who will be a senior at Lower Merion High School this fall. My son is going to be a junior at Temple University in September.

GShoshana's picture

My name is shoshana. I am a

My name is shoshana. I am a Hebrew and Judaic Studies teacher in Perelman Jewish Day School.

I was born in Israel and grew up there.I served in Israel Army.when I moved to USA my highest goal was to pass my Jewish heritage  and the love and beauty of Israel to my students so in the future they will want to pass on their knowledge to others and visit Israel. I am teaching 4/5 grade. my reason i came to this workshop is to learn from other teachers by sharing ideas and problems that arise in the classroom. my goal this year is to learn more about kids with ADHD,as this will help me to better teach and understand them. I want to get more ideas on how to help the student to engage in class, concentrate, and become involved in all activities.

joycetheriot's picture






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I have been teaching mostly honor science classes and have relished giving the students project and problem based assessments which are laborious to grade but marvelous to see activated. This past year I was given 2 basic science classes and found a brand new puzzle to solve. These classes were heterogeneous in nature and I was thrilled when I found new pathways to reach them. After hearing Susan’s story, I feel blessed to work in an environment where loads of resources are available to access students’ best level. There were students in my class with significant cognitive delays who demonstrated an amazing level of content understanding when given the opportunity to explain in their own way. I fell in love with these classes that challenged me each day to REACH their minds.

Ashley Dawkins's picture

A start...


I feel a sense of relief after completing my first year of teaching. After surviving the world wind of this life changing experience I can now catch my breath and further reflect on my experiences. I see an immediate need to involve more creativity and inquiry into my lessons...this is why I am here. I am here to learn, question, and gain ideas that I can apply to my classroom. The interesting twist is that I my classroom will be changing for my second year of teaching. I will be entering the cyber community and trying to incorporate creativity and inquiry into this world. I am not sure what to expect...


Highlighted Topics

  • learning to facilitate learning and managing behaviors
  • environment changes learning experiences
Keith Sgrillo's picture

Teaching and Learning Environments

I thought the discussions today were very interesting and enlightening.  I found there to be some very profound and impacting comments made.  I particularly liked the honesty with which all of us spoke about our strengths, weaknesses, and observations. 


One comment that resonated with me was Jack's about "Teaching Environments."  I think we spend so much time wondering, thinking about, and planning for environments that best suit the needs of our students, that we rearely reflect on the environment that best suits us for teachers.  I think this is somehting that I have not often thought about as well.  Maybe a new trend in education is finding a middle ground or maybe more accurately a common ground in which both the teacher and the students are functioning at the most optimum levels to be successful.

Regina Toscani's picture

First Day Introduction

I am a Special Education teacher, and a product of the Philadelphia School District.  Growing up with a learning disability (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), I learned being different was not socially or educationally approved or valued. As an adult I am constantly amazed by my very "different" students.  They want to learn and prized all of their accomplishments.
Today's conversation was a bit intimating and overwhelming.  There is more diversity of participants than in previous institutes. The main question that arised for me was, what makes a child so different that they cannot succeed in certain classrooms?  Is it the child, teacher, or the school structure?  


cdivo39's picture


My name is Cleat Dobbins and I teach drama at The Spring School of the Arts in Philadelphia. I also teach adult drama in our schools' outside affiliations.

This is my third Brain and Behavior Institute.  I've always found these institiutes to be fascinating and educational.  I hope this year to learn many new things that I can use in my classrooms and I also hope to bring to the group an artisitc bent to our many conversations that hopefully will help and stimulate my fellow colleagues.

Susan Dorfman's picture

A Little Bit About Myself

Bryn Mawr Summer Institute: Brain, Science, and Inquiry Based Education Session #1

Like other participants in the institute, I am an educator. I have enjoyed the teaching role all my life. I went to a K through 8 inner city public school in Phila and then to a large inner city high school, followed by matricultion at a large city college, Temple U. in Phila. I lived at home and spent my free time working to earn money at various jobs on and off campus. During all these years, from grade 4 on, I helped other students in my classes. In college, I tutored and also volunteered as a reader for the blind. To put my husband through professional school, I worked as a technician in a research lab at UPENN. There, I developed a sense of myself as a capable scientist and teacher. When my husband graduated, I began my graduate education. I wanted to pursue my own ideas and realized that I would need the credentials afforded by a Ph.D. I was fascinated by the brain, maybe because of the limitations of my own. Much later as the parent of two children, I went through the process of seeking help with my son's developmental issues and discovered why school had always been both a joy and a struggle for me. I have auditory processing issues. All through elementary school, my teachers reported hearing deficits. My parents were instructed to take me for testing at the Board of Education in Phila. No hearing deficit was ever found and no further testing was ever recommended. My issues were not lack of ability to hear sound but to process sound. In addition, I reverse opposites. As a young person, I would stop on green and cross on red. Without an analysis of my frequent almost disasterous pedestrian encounters, I trained myself to verbalize the color of the light and the appropriate command. I also reverse letters and needed to train myself to verbalize while I read. Knowledge of my own learning and application issues have made me very sensitive to the potential needs of my students. I have always used multiple ways of communication just in case my students need them. Verbal, auditory, visual instruction (both in class board and handouts as well as my class website) are used in my classes each day. I should mention that teaching pre-college education was a second career.

I worked as a research scientists for 11 years. During those years I taught, formally in the teaching of Gross Anatomy to Penn dental students, and informally to train the multitude of technicians, undergrad and grad students, neurology residents, and post doc students who came through our lab. I loved the teaching aspect of my life. When research money became tight and the demands of raising two young children not compatible with the demands of tissue culture based research, I choose to investigate the independent school system. In a private girls’ school, I have now taught for 20 years. I have taught science to kindergarteners, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th graders and also AP Biology to seniors. For the last six years, I served my institution as the Head of the Science Department, a department of 8 faculty including myself. The demands of being a full time teacher and full time department head have made it difficult to create balance in my life. I work slowly, and my husband likes to say that I am the most inefficient organized person he knows. To meet my responsibilities, I have worked on campus 12 hour days with a couple hours of work at home 5 days a week and hours of work both on and off campus 1 or 2 days each weekend. The schedule has been exhausting.

My experience in both public and private schools and in all three levels of pre-college education as well as post college teaching have contributed to both a wealth of personal experience and observation and a wealth of questions that need exploration. For the next school year, I will have to rethink my teaching at the high school level as the Upper School in my Institution moves from 45 - 55 minute classes to a class length of 75 minutes. That is one reason I am enrolled in the Institute. My second reason to be here is to explore new ways of creating a successful learning environment for a generation of students comfortable with the technological applications of computing and the Internet.This technology became available to me in my 40's. I can navigate the technology but it is not intuitive for me as it is for my students. Paul and Will create an environment that facilitates stimulating and innovative conversation from which I emerge refreshed and invigorated in my teaching.



joycetheriot's picture

Intersecting Journeys

Quite a rich discussion this morning! Unlike the usual: this is where I work, what I do, etc; there were good questions and interactions between us. I think the physical environment helped to facilitate the flow of ideas.  When Jenna spoke of the “divide” between the arts and sciences I thought of my daughter who tops out in all science and math domains but who is also a talented artist and has been writing poetry since the 3rd grade. She’s never certain to which domain she belongs; but I think she’s empowered in her journey. I’m enjoying my particular journey to find the best methods to develop science understanding for my students. I believe the path is endless.


Jessica Watkins's picture

Introduction and Thoughts

My interest in this Institute stems from my intense interest in people and life interactions.  I am working toward a degree in Biology (with a concentration in Neurobehavioral Sciences) with a double minor in English and Pyschology, which encompasses my varied interests in the mind, writing and the "microscopic" causes of certain behaviors in relations to others.  Journalism is another great interest of mine, and I consider it both a science and an art (which reflects my dual-sided personality: I am both scientific and literary).  My educational experience has been with small, private schools (I went to Catholic school for 8 years and attended a very small, college preparatory high school) so my view on learning and teacher-student relations has been affected extensively by that.  This morning's discussion, particularly about different learning environments (comments made about some students "just not belonging" in private school  settings) was interesting.  I am looking forward to learning more about the different institute participants' views on separation of "different" children from those considered "normal," (see jpfeiffer's mini project on the idea of a "less wrong" instead of a "right," as well as what is considered "normal") as well as their experience with this.

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