Helping Educators Become Lifelong Learners

SRP provides workshops and comprehensive in-service programs for Arizona educators. Our goal is to equip educators with key insights and proven classroom resources related to the water and energy industries.

To learn more about SRP’s workshops for educators, visit srpnet.com/workshops.

For the last six years, Kevin Rolfe, SRP Community Outreach Representative, and Molina Walters (Dr. Mo, as she’s known) have produced a workshop for Arizona educators called Teaching Inquiry-Based STEM Science. Dr. Mo is a clinical associate professor in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and is well-known for her dedication to teaching educators about scientific inquiry. Here she shares the importance of continuing education, science and SRP workshops.

“You watch the educators [at these workshops] and all of a sudden you see the gears turning. I love to see that because you can tell they relish it, they chew on it, and apply it. And they apply it in ways that we don’t always think about.” – Dr. Mo, Clinical Associate Professor in the ASU Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
How has your partnership with SRP evolved over the years?

One of my main roles has been as an educator who can co-teach with SRP personnel to deliver high-quality professional development that is attainable and transferrable in the classroom. We started off presenting inquiry-based science because STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) wasn’t a buzzword yet. It hadn’t really come into play, and what was coming into play was problem-based learning and inquiry-based science. Last summer was the first time we included a STEM piece and it was very successful.

I enjoy partnering with SRP because they are focused on educating teachers about environmental topics here in Arizona in the best way possible. SRP is just wonderful with providing resources and networking opportunities for educators.

What do you like best about the Teaching Inquiry-Based STEM Science workshop?

We get teachers from kindergarten through ninth grade in one place so they can share their expertise and learn from each other to see how important the previous and future grades are outside of themselves. As a teacher it’s really easy to get isolated, and so that continuum allows you to collaborate and to understand that the challenges you have in your classroom are no different than the challenges these other folks have.

These workshops are also an opportunity for them to have hands-on experiences that are also very easily transferrable. They are equipped with all the background knowledge and materials to transfer what we’re doing in these workshops right to their classroom — it’s instantaneous.

How do you develop the activities for these workshops?

With my STEM background, I will start the development and then we get together and brainstorm, and we each take things that are our strengths. For example, Kevin will do all the stuff with the coal story, alternative energy sources and batteries. We each get our allotted time, and we run with it but we always collaborate and we look at what each other is doing. And if we have an idea, that idea is shared.

“Dr. Mo is a favorite teacher of hundreds if not thousands of students. She is an absolute ball of energy and brings that to everything she teaches. She’s really excited about teaching science and passes that excitement along to her students.” — Kevin Rolfe, Community Outreach Representative, SRP
Is there a certain activity that is a big hit with teachers?

They all like building stuff — windmills, parachutes, roller coasters — you name it. Every morning to start off our day we do design challenges, and these guys they struggle and get flustered and frustrated … and what I see them loving is the success of accomplishment. Even if their design isn’t the best, they are thrilled if their little marble will go 2 feet compared to somebody else’s going 6 feet.

Anything funny or memorable from these workshops that you’d like to share?

Sometimes things backfire and they don’t always turn out the way they’re supposed to, and so Kevin and I have to think very quickly on our feet if something doesn’t quite work right. One year we were trying to have teachers make sails for little boats and we had fans but they didn’t work. We thought maybe we could have everyone blow but then thought everyone would get lightheaded and pass out. So we ended up figuring out a workaround. But while they were enjoying lunch, Kevin and I, we were panicked! [Laughs] The next year I made sure to buy new fans.

Why is it important for teachers to receive continuing education like the workshops offered by SRP?

When you’re a teacher, you forget what it’s like to be challenged and struggle because you teach a curriculum that you’re well-versed on. This professional development though, I think it really puts them in a disequilibrium situation. They’re asked to do things they might not know or understand, so they are really wearing the hat of a learner. And that’s exciting because by the time they leave you can see the growth and development. Workshops allow them to develop new skills, reinforce skills they have, increase their best practices, background content and resources. I think it also gives more meaning to an educator’s learning because they see the application right away.

What do you like best about your job?

What I like best about my job is teaching. I have a passion for what I do and I wouldn’t spend 39 years in it if I didn’t love what I do. I love turning people on to learning. And I love turning people on to science, in particular, because if there’s one subject area where people have had the worst experience, besides math, it’s usually science. People know the least about it and are the most uncomfortable with it, so I like to rock their world, which is every time I get to teach.

The hardest or most challenging part of your job?

As much as I love science, sometimes it gets put on the backburner because we teach everything in isolation — we don’t teach the integration and the connectedness. The struggle I have is people don’t see the value and the vehicle that science can be.

What advice would you give to other educators?

Continue to be a lifelong learner and do not lose sight of the fact that you impact a child’s world every single day that a child enters your classroom.

To learn more about SRP’s workshops for educators, visit srpnet.com/workshops.

 

SRPconnect

SRPconnect

SRP delivers high-value electricity and water for the benefit of our customers, shareholders and the communities we serve. We are a community-based nonprofit utility and the largest provider of electricity in the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving more than 1 million customers. We also are the largest provider of water to the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, delivering about 800,000 acre-feet annually to agricultural, urban and municipal water users.

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