Jennifer Beyer, STEM Lab/Specials Teacher, McNabb Elementary
Lifelong Asker of “Why?”
Jennifer Beyer delivers Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to 412 students each and every week at McNabb Elementary School. This program was specifically added as a rotation in the students’ daily schedule to ensure that all children received extra experience with hands-on study and exploration in these areas outside the classroom. This school year the state K-Prep test includes a science component. Administrators recognized the importance that students feel confident in their abilities for that test. Ms. Beyer was just the teacher to deliver!
Ms. Beyer’s curriculum is modified to meet the needs of each grade level’s science curriculum and goals. McNabb’s lab works with the Food Service program at McNabb and with the Paducah Independent School’s Board of Education pioneering hydroponic garden towers in the lab and serving fresh in-house grown produce salads in the school’s cafeteria.
“My personal goal is to instill a love of science learning early so that our students can see the possibilities for future careers, life-long learning, feel ready to make informed decisions about how to best be a conscientious Paducah citizen, but also a citizen of our global community and how STEM/STEAM can empower us all. ”
Ms. Beyer credits her parents, Jerry and Rhonda Beyer, for sparking her passion for STEM. She describes herself as a curious child whose parents encouraged her to ask the “Why” questions. She was encouraged to explore and to make messes.
“Mom learned I loved rainbows and would put prisms in all the windows. She made sure to explain the science of the spectrum of light. I wanted to know where my food went when I ate. Dad would get out encyclopedias and anatomy books and explain the process. If they didn’t know the answer, they gave me the tools and skills to “Look it up!” I love knowing what is out there. I love knowing what is possible. I love finding out how things work and why they work the way they do. Life is a beautiful thing. I feel it has always been my calling to pass on that excitement for learning that my parents instilled in me. I have a daughter and a son to raise that way. But then, how profoundly blessed to be able to have 400+ more daughters and sons (because my students are my children) to be able to invest in with what I know and can continue to find out.” (Ms. Beyer also reflects fondly on her high school science teacher, Mr. Tony McGroarty, whom she credits for helping to build her confidence in pursuing science throughout her educational career.)
The STEM field is often one that feels inaccessible to many students, especially when it is not introduced in a manner that is fun, natural and connects students to their everyday world. When asked how she engages all students, this was her response: “I like to refer to our program as the STEAM program…throwing a little Art into the mix of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. I think that makes the program accessible to all student. I teach my students to express, answer, show, and design. We look at possibilities and then test what works and what doesn’t work. We test again. I work on building their own class scientific community. Real jobs in STEM require collaboration. Real jobs in STEM require creativity. It’s accessible to all because everyone has something valuable to contribute. They contribute their curiosity and their ideas. I’ll quote my favorite scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, “I’m often asked by parents what advice can I give them to help get kids interested in science? And I have only one bit of advice. Get out of their way. Kids are born curious. Period.”