Science teacher Meara Kauffman has been teaching Upper School Chemistry and Physics at Winsor since 2011 and has been honored with the school’s Pennypacker Prize.
[NOTE: Science teacher Meara Kauffman teaches Upper School chemistry and physics at Winsor, where she was honored with the school's Pennypacker Prize for promising teachers. The Q&A was featured in the Winsor Bulletin's "First Person" column.]
Q: What do you enjoy the most about teaching at Winsor?
A: Students at Winsor are incredibly dedicated to and sincerely interested in their learning. I love the questions they ask about the world around them and the connections they are always trying to make with what they are learning.
Q: Describe one of your favorite lesson plans.
A: My favorite lessons are ones that involve demonstrations or students performing their own experiments in the lab. It's impossible to pick just one favorite.
I really enjoy a project that my students in Chemistry do to explore the gas laws, which are the relationships between different gas variables, like pressure and temperature. Students were divided into groups, and each group had to figure out the relationship between different gas variables through analyzing some data they were given. Then, each group picked a different gas law and made a Wiki site to explain the gas law to their classmates. Finally, they presented their gas law to their classmates with a demonstration of their choosing.
The project combines some of the things I like best about teaching - students discovering things on their own and explaining concepts to their peers and neat demonstrations.
Q: Classroom lessons often inspire “A-ha!” moments when connected to students’ everyday lives. Describe one of your favorite moments.
A: I love when students all of sudden understand why something they have been observing all their lives happens, like why they sometimes get shocked by things or why they see lightning before they hear thunder.
Recently in my Chemistry class, we were talking about why certain substances dissolve in water and others do not. The subject of greasy pans came up, as they are difficult to clean because grease and water are not soluble in one another. A student made the connection that soap must somehow make the grease soluble in water. I could have planted her in that lesson to bring soap up at that exact time. I love these moments!
Q: Why are STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) so important to a 21st century Winsor education?
A: While I understand that I not all of my students will go into science, I do hope that they develop at the very least an appreciation for the subject they are learning. I hope that they see that studying STEAM subjects connects with a better understanding of the world around them and good methods for problem solving. Women are still underrepresented in many STEAM fields, and I hope that my students see that they can be successful in careers in STEAM.