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Meet two leaders in science and engineering

December 29, 2011
BY GEORGE C. BAKER , Headmaster, Maui Preparatory Academy

NAPILI - As an educator with 45 years of experience in a wide variety of schools (parochial, public, international, pre-K-12 independent, all girls, all boys, Episcopal pre-K-12), I have had the honor to work with and support nearly 130 science teachers.

As many of you may be aware, science teachers are an extraordinary lot. They are quirky with unique personalities - some nerdy (meant in good way), technology wizards, incredibly passionate about science and lifelong students of the wonders of nature. It is an honor to introduce you to the two most accomplished science teachers that I have ever had the privilege to work with as an administrator.

I would first like to introduce you to Carrie DeMott, an amazing teacher with a passion for the environment and sustainability. She is an astute watchdog for ecological issues, sustainable gardens, energy use, campus safety and kids' nutrition. Carrie is a master scuba diver and a certified Red Cross first aid and CPR trainer.

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Baker

There are few educators that are specialists who have the ability to relate and manage middle school students while exciting and directing their natural exuberance and focusing them on building their skills. Carrie is a master of reading a class, using humor at key times, taking advantage of the kinesthetic aspects of hands-on science, fostering curiosity, generating questions that push kids to think and extracting the best out of her students.

Over the past four years, she has been the founder of our Science Olympiad Club and team. This after-school extension of her classroom generates a love of science and passion in kids, and pushes their own understanding of concepts and scientific phenomena well beyond what students in these grade levels would have normally be exposed to.

Carrie's enthusiasm and passion has motivated kids to spend up to three hours per day for months in preparation for the Science Olympiad. They enjoy every minute of exploring the concepts and hands-on rigors of the varied competitions. They are building rockets, robots and catapults; formulating hypothesizes; testing theories and experiments; and attempting to beat their own records times.

In the regional competition, the team competed in five specific areas in which they dominated each. At the state competition, they competed in 12 areas, winning a majority and beating competitors from much larger schools and teams, such as Punahou. After two years competing at nationals on two different campuses (University of Illinois and Wisconsin), our small team of 12 students, which represents one-third of the middle school, came across teams larger than our entire school and still placed in the top half of the country in most of the 23 events (genetics, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, paleontology, microbiology, environmental science, astronomy, etc.).

Thanks to Carrie, our students are excited about science. After visiting their science classes, I can verify that the Science Olympiad team members have raised the bar for all of our students. Carrie takes one trimester and teaches Human Development and Reproductive Systems in a way that is realistic and dissolves many of the myths teens have about numerous issues. I love seeing Carrie in action spreading her magic with kids!

My second introduction is for Chris Border, a high school science and mathematics teacher. Chris came to Maui Prep from the island of Unalaska in the 49th State. He brings an amazing level of physics, chemistry, engineering and calculus to our students.

As a specialist with experience at the college and high school level, Chris has been teaching the highest level of AP Calculus and AP Physics at Maui Prep. He has been recognized for his abilities by winning a Fulbright Fellowship, Toyota Educator award and, most recently, being named a NASA- National Astronomy Fellow.

Chris engages older students in his ability to take complex material and make it understandable and exciting. Students walk away inspired and confident in being able to succeed in the challenges of difficult courses.

I marveled at his engineering class where 19 juniors and seniors worked in teams on various engineering projects. One group was designing a submarine with two tanks of gases that allowed them to control the depth, an internal power source and propulsion system with a remote control. The project was a series of problems that the group confronted and solved. Other teams were working on a solar recharging station for cell phones, electronic digital human voice replicator, and designing a wind tunnel.

Students pick-up on Chris's expertise and ability to make them think about things they did not think they knew at the same time applying and utilizing the scientific method. In his classroom, he is generating an antennae and device for measuring the effects of solar flare-ups, as they have a huge impact upon our ever-increasing use of communications and satellites in our everyday life. Each had major scientific and technical implications.

Over the past few years, Chris has introduced robotics to our students using electronic circuits and sensors to bring the robots into varied levels of functionality. After school, Chris was an important resource for our Science Olympians. It is a treat to see him working with kids on their own designs and the impact changes in the design have on the performance.

Last year, Chris instituted "Flip teaching" in his calculus classes. He made simple video clips of calculus concepts that his students watched each night for homework with the added task of preparing three questions. The following day, he gave the class several problems to do based on their understanding of the video. He was then available to ensure that they had mastered the concepts and be able to demonstrate their understanding in successfully completing the complex problems. Above all else, Chris makes himself available before and after school to help students with tough calculus equation or physics concepts.

It is a unique quality to take the very complicated and present it in such a way that students master the challenge, utilize hands-on experiences and technology to foster understanding, and provide incredible inspiration to capture students to the point that they are interested in pursuing science and engineering as a career and professional path.

Chris Border and Carrie DeMott are stellar educators making a difference in the lives of our students. They are just a few of the talented Maui Prep faculty generating a tremendous interest in the sciences, engineering, history, languages, writing, technology, music and art that will carry many of our students and graduates into fields that offer incredible opportunities in the future.

 
 
 

 

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