Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Emerging Leader: Jenny Sue Flannagan

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Emerging Leader: Jenny Sue Flannagan

Article excerpt

Did you know that a dollar bill is attracted to a magnet? And did you know that starting a science lesson this way is more likely to engage students than asking them to turn to page 125 in their textbooks? It may seem like common sense, but starting a lesson with a problem or activity captures a student's curiosity. And when students are curious, they want to learn.

"Shifting the lesson away from starting with content and starting with the wonder and excitement and real-world applications, you can hook more students into learning and get them excited," said Jenny Sue Flannagan, director of the Martinson Center for Mathematics and Science and assistant professor in the School of Education at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.

As director of the Martinson Center, Flannagan, a member of PDK's 2009-10 Class of Emerging Leaders, provides high-quality professional development for teachers in order to improve science and math instruction.

"When I think about all the careers and the jobs in today's world--and not just in the U.S., but globally--the skills that students learn in math and science touch almost every single job," she said. "If our students are going to be competitive in the global marketplace of today and the future, we've got to be preparing students to fill those jobs."

One Martinson Center institute that will be held this summer for preschool and kindergarten teachers combines math and science activities with children's literature.

Flannagan has also started an outreach program called "Budding Scientist," which targets pre-school children. Each month, Martinson provides a science lesson that focuses on building student vocabulary and students' observational skills, along with such early math skills as counting and number recognition. This year, the program will expand to a second preschool center.

"The feedback from parents was fantastic last year. Students were using the words at home, and one young girl even asked for a lab coat and goggles for Christmas," Flannagan said.

"I really think that future scientists and mathematicians are born in kindergarten and pre-school," Flannagan said. "If we can get them engaged and hooked and wanting to answer questions, it will fuel a desire to take math and science courses in middle school and high school, and [they might] possibly even choose a career because of that excitement. …

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