Sarah Collins is growing the next generation of scientists at Patricia A. Duran School in Hermon, Maine. The school’s fourth grade science teacher, Collins secured a Maine Environmental Education Grant to develop an outdoor classroom and garden “lab” where children learn about soil quality and plant growth. Students found fallen trees that became raised beds, and Collins solicited donations of soil and seeds from the community. Growing vegetables helps cement students’ understanding of where their food comes from, and produce from the garden ends up on the menu in the school cafeteria. Because Duran is in a rural area near Bangor, Collins uses technology to expand students’ experiences beyond the classroom, arranging virtual meetings with scientists in a multitude of locations and occupations. Her young scientists have learned from a wildlife ecologist studying coyote behavior in South Carolina, a Hawaiian volcanologist, and a scientist from a local university as she performed experiments in Antarctica.
Dedicated, empathetic and determined to reach every student, Collins uses multiple methods of assessment to encourage children to express their scientific reasoning and understanding. Students write focus questions, record and discuss observations, make drawings, analyze data, and perform self-assessments using notebook entries and checklists. Collins works with the University of Maine’s Research in STEM Education (RiSE) Center, bringing research-based, hands-on learning experiences back to Duran. She worked with Duran’s media specialist to develop a 3D computer design club and has presented at the Maine Science Teachers Association’s annual conference on the use of student notebooks in the science classroom. The project-based learning module on habitats Collins developed for the Maine Department of Education’s MOOSE (Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education) platform has been used by students across Maine, around the U.S. and internationally.
Collins partners with parents to keep families involved in their children’s learning. During the pandemic, she researched avenues to get resources into students’ hands, led frequent virtual field trips and found accessible, hands-on science lessons students could execute at home.
A graduate of the University of Maine Orono, Collins earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2008 and a master’s in literacy education in 2014.
"I teach because it's fun every single day. It's wild and crazy and chaotic. No day is the same, but I have so much fun because of the..." (read more)
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