Communication Center  Conference  Projects Share  Reports from the Field Resources  Library  LSC Project Websites  NSF Program Notes
 How to Use this site    Contact us  LSC-Net: Local Systemic Change Network
Newsclippings and Press Releases

LSC Reference Materials

LSC Case Study Reports

Annual Report Overviews

Summer Workshop Plans

Newsclippings and Press Releases


Perry instructor explores the science of teaching

submitter: Jane Hazen Dessecker
description: This article was published in the Akron Beacon Journal, March 27, 2001. You can read this article at
published: 03/27/2001
posted to site: 03/30/2001

Perry instructor explores the science of teaching

Canton award finalist enjoys learning process while guiding others


Beacon Journal staff writer


Elizabeth Martin considers herself more a learner than a teacher.

That's part of the reason she moved from elementary to middle school, so she could teach the same subject -- science -- six times a day. "It gives me a better depth of understanding,'' she said. "And it's never the same from one class period to the next.''

Martin, who is in her second year at Paul F. Pfeiffer Middle School and her 23rd year of teaching, is one of five finalists for the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year award. The winner will be announced April 10.

Martin said she learns even more since adopting a new method of teaching. She took two weeks of intensive training last summer to learn the FAST (Foundational Approaches in Science Teaching) curriculum, a two-year program in which the textbook supplements the experiments instead of the other way around.

Martin says she "got hooked on hands-on science'' when Perry schools adopted the SEEDS program. Short for Science Education Enhancing the Development of Skills, SEEDS was funded by a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation that was designed to bring "systemic change'' to the way science is taught in kindergarten through sixth grade in Stark County schools.

In 1999, a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation funded SATURN (Science and Technology for Understanding, Research and Networking) to bring hands-on science to Stark County's middle schools and high schools.

The theory behind both SEEDS and SATURN is that pupils retain more when the learning is fun and they can discover scientific principles themselves.

When pupils "just read from a book and memorize what they need to know for the test,'' much of the learning evaporates as soon as the exam is over, Martin said. Her seventh-graders learned yesterday that hands-on science sometimes gets on more than just your hands.

"I was holding this and she pushed that, and it just exploded -- everywhere," said Courtney Saint-Amand as she wiped water droplets from her safety goggles.

Using beakers, tubes and syringes, the pupils found that with a little pressure in the right places, air can flow from one place to the other, just like water.

They also learned that with a lot of pressure in the wrong places, air can make water flow onto them.

Courtney said Martin's philosophy of learning by discovery works better for her than conventional methods of teaching.

"I never really understood science until I had her for class," the pupil said. "She takes the time to make us understand how it all works."

Matt Mosser was among several students who said their favorite field trip with Martin was a simple trek around the school building last fall.

"We saw how weather affected the bricks with erosion, and how it made the sidewalk crack," he said.

Kristin Parsons remembers "how the paint was scratched off the building from a tree branch rubbing against it."

Another of Martin's beliefs is that "hands-on" is no good without "minds-on." After the fun of doing experiments comes a day of "brainstorming" about what happened, and why.

" 'Hands-on' is a big buzzword these days," Martin said. "But without 'minds-on,' it's just playing with science."

"She never tells us anything; she makes us find out for ourselves," said another seventh- grader, Marc Shefelton.

Martin believes she learns as much from her students as they do from her. "Early on, many people felt teachers were dispensers of knowledge and they (students) were empty vessels that we filled," she said. "Now we know that they come to us with all kinds of ideas and knowledge of their own. We're partners in learning."

Martin, 53, lives in Perry Township but grew up in Canton. She is a graduate of McKinley High School and got her bachelor's and master's degrees from Kent State University.

"But I've been in and out of school ever since," she said. "I just love to learn."

Outside of school, she enjoys reading and fitness. She and her husband, Dale, have two grown children.

Martin taught at T. C. Knapp, Genoa and Reedurban elementaries before transferring to Pfeiffer. But wherever she's been, she has considered teaching -- or "facilitating learning," as she prefers to call it -- the best job in the world.

"It just doesn't get any better than this," she said. "I've always loved what I do."

Teacher of the Year finalists Julianne Conrad of East Canton High,
Linda Kossler of Avondale Elementary and Mary Ellen Jackson of Madge Youtz Elementary have been featured in previous stories. Diana Schuler of P.J. Lohr Elementary will be profiled next.
Barbara Galloway can be reached at 330-478-6000 (Ext. 18) or 1-800-478-5445 or