Bernadette Young

Full STEAM Ahead!

Teacher Fuels Enthusiasm for Science

By Matt Olin and Jodi Werner Greenwald | Photos by Ray Sepesy

Bernadette M. Young is an eighth-grade science teacher at Jay M. Robinson Middle School and a national board- certified teacher in early adolescent science. Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, she is a graduate of the University of Georgia (UGA), holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Wingate University and has taught in Charlotte for 20 years.

What creative classroom strategies do you use?
My students get excited whenever we have lab investigations or modeling activities. For example, students modeled the distribution of water on Earth in various containers to show the amounts of saltwater, freshwater, groundwater, water locked in ice and surface water.

What is the most creative project you’ve done with your students?
Mind mapping. This is a powerful graphic and vocabulary tool that starts with a central idea (“chemical change,” for example) and branches from this idea with related words and pictures, such as images of fireworks.

How does a creative approach to science impact your students’ learning process?
When students experience science and form context with real-life situations, they internalize and connect to ideas.

Does it enhance your teaching experience?
Absolutely! Creativity increases student and teacher interest levels. This enthusiasm helps the students build a relationship with science and with me. This helps to bridge the gap between a requirement of coming to school and the love of knowledge, learning and enjoying school experiences.

STEAM all the way. It may start with a doodle and end with a creative explanation, an invention or a solution to a local or global issue.

(Editor’s Note: STEM represents “science, technology, engineering and math.” The “A” in STEAM stands for “art.”)

Did you always want to be a science teacher?
While at UGA, I worked part-time as a counselor for the YWCA, and that was my first experience working with youngsters. It seemed to be a natural fit, but I didn’t think it would lead to a 20-year career in education. Science and math have always been my favorite subjects.

What advice on creativity do you have for other teachers?
Put yourself out there and allow students to explore. Collaborate with others. Keep students engaged. Give something new a try. If things don’t necessarily go as planned, adjust and try it again.