Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! On this special day, we’re thrilled to highlight one of the many amazing local educators we’ve met through our EdExchange program, Eva Rosenthal.
Thinkery EdExchange, our professional development series supported by the City of Austin GTOPS program, Dell and Capital One, enriches Austin’s educational landscape by bringing curious, passionate educators together in a collaborative environment. The yearlong program empowers participants to use technology and innovative practices in diverse learning environments to inspire students in STEAM subjects.
We recently sat down with Eva, a lifelong learner, Austin ISD educator and EdExchange alumna, to discuss her experiences.
Tell us about yourself! Tell us about your background, education and interests.
I am originally from New Haven, Connecticut. I came to Austin in 1995 to attend the University of Texas, where I minored in Spanish and took courses in literature and design. After completing my BA in Plan II, I worked in outreach education for a technology museum in New Haven, the New Haven community gardens and Sustainable Agriculture through the Peace Corps in Guatemala.
My interests are rooted in hands-on science education. I enjoy providing students the opportunity to study their environment, experiment and observe the properties of materials, and solve problems collaboratively. My personal interests include gardening, the arts and sustainability education.
What inspired you to become an educator?
Working in outreach education was an inspiring experience for me. I enjoy designing and implementing projects for a wide range of students. Working as an educator at the Eli Whitney Museum and as a TA at the Foote School inspired me to seek out teaching certification and be able to teach all content areas. I have been teaching at Metz Elementary for 11 years. During this time, we have received grants to help us design and plant outdoor learning areas with a great variety of native plants and interpretive signs. The second grade science curriculum has a focus on animal life cycles through the butterfly. Our pollinator gardens attract a wide variety of native and migratory butterflies.
How did you hear about Thinkery’s EdExchange program? Why did you want to be part of this program?
I heard about Thinkery’s EdExchange program from a Thinkery employee who was in my ceramics class. She recommended that I apply to the program for the following year. I was excited by the opportunity to collaborate with other educators, use new technologies, and plan design challenges that help to teach design, teamwork and critical thinking.
Discuss your involvement in Thinkery’s EdExchange program.
My first year in EdExchange, I learned a lot from both the Wednesday evening seminars and the twelve weeks of project support with Riley. We used the empathy-based design curriculum to research, plan and build puppets from upcycled materials. The students learned a lot from the process Think, Make, Improve that my cohort read about in the book “Invent to Learn.” We then used HUE Animation software to make mini-stop motion animation movies across genres. Some groups made fractured stories about Darth Vader’s leisure time—other groups made movies about polygons and the food chain. The students had the opportunity to look critically at the media they see through the process of making the mini-movies. For our last project, the second graders designed board games to teach kindergartners about the food chain. They had a ton of fun developing the board games! Some of our students who really struggled academically designed the games that were the most popular with their classmates and with the kindergartners.
This year, we used the empathy-based design framework to research, plan and design math games that use place value. The students had a great time investigating games, adapting popular elements to their topic, and playing and improving their games. Each team developed a unique approach to the design challenge. My second round of EdExchange was also an opportunity for me to improve on my teaching from the previous year, as I was able to apply and tweak successful elements from the previous year. For example, through collaboration with Keep Austin Beautiful, our students completed three sustainability workshops. They love upcycling materials to make games, toys and art. Their work in design thinking encourages them to see waste materials as an opportunity for reuse.
How has your EdExchange experience shaped the work you do in your classroom?
My EdExchange experience has shaped the work we do in our classroom in many ways. Most importantly, we are giving our students the opportunity to develop crucial 21st century skills such as material knowledge, collaboration, participation in open-ended design challenges, designing for a user, and persistence. Through the empathy-based design module as well as the Think, Make, Improve (Invent to Learn), our students have become more comfortable with using mistakes and first drafts as a valuable first step. I think that they see so many finished products that are not transparent—the process that the designers used to get to the final product is not apparent. Many students feel that their writing should come out perfect on the first try and are reluctant to revise or edit drafts because they infer that they did something “wrong” on the first try. Going through various design processes encourages them to see first tries as works in progress. They come to see the Improve step as an exciting part of the design process.
Is there anything you hope to implement in the future?
I hope to keep using the empathy-based design modules in the future as we work through our engineering units. We will continue to design games, upcycle materials to build, and identify problems in our community where we can apply our engineering superpowers.
What advice do you have for educators interested in Thinkery’s EdExchange program?
I highly encourage every educator to apply to Thinkery’s EdExchange program! You will have the opportunity to learn about and use a variety of new technologies, network with experts in the field and other educators with similar interests, and to bring all of these new ideas to your classroom. EdExchange is a program for teachers who hope to integrate new technologies and modalities into many aspects of their classroom.
Share Eva’s story with an educator you know and love. Applications for Thinkery’s 2017–18 professional development series open on Monday, May 22. Mark your calendars!
EdExchange is made possible with the generous support of Capital One, City of Austin GTOPS program, Dell and National Instruments.