Jonathan Rogers really rocks

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Rogers selected for National Science Teacher Academy

By Jennifer Corbett

The idea that Jolly Ranchers can somehow replicate igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks may initially seem odd.

But to Jonathan Rogers, it’s a unique laboratory idea to get his students to understand about the different types of rocks. 

Using everyday items, such as candy, is just one example of how Rogers gets his students to think critically about science.

“I want my students to be appreciative for how much science affects everyday life,” said Rogers, a teacher at Bardstown Middle School. “I prefer for them to try and fail in laboratory experiments. In real science, it’s supposed to be trial and error. I don’t want to tell them what to do; they need to figure it out themselves. Once you make science on the paper real, kids who hate science want to come to science.”

It’s that approach that helped Rogers, a 2005 graduate of Bardstown High School, get accepted into the New Science Teacher Academy, a year-long professional development program designed to help teachers convey the material to their students through innovative labs and critical thinking assignments. Across the country, 247 teachers were chosen for the program.

Rogers, who was one of six teachers from  Kentucky to be selected for the program, was thrilled when he first heard he was accepted.

“I’m excited to incorporate new ideas into the classroom,” he said.

Rogers, who graduated with his master’s in education from the University of Kentucky in 2011, has been teaching at BMS for one year. Prior to BMS, he taught chemistry to juniors and seniors at Bryan Station High School in Lexington.

The program, which is run through the National Science Teacher’s Association, assigns newer teachers, or fellows, with veteran teachers who have taught science at the same grade level for several years. Mentors give their fellows advice and constructive criticism on how to make their classroom more efficient.

Mentors give support and guidance to get through what may seem like an overwhelming first year, said Kate Falk, senior manager of public relations for the office of legislative and public affairs for the National Science Teacher’s Association.

The program features an online forum, where fellows and mentors can share ideas that have and haven’t worked for them, creative laboratory experiments and homework assignments.

Teachers and veterans also give constructive criticism, which Rogers said is vital.

“They showed me places for growth,” he said. 

Having an online forum is vital, Falk noted, because it’s an opportunity to find new and original techniques to keep students interested.

Rogers said he submitted his Jolly Rancher lab, something he created. The lab has students use two Jolly Ranchers to mimic the three types of rocks: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.

It’s ideas such as this that make the forum worthwhile, Falk said.

“Teachers are needing to be more creative with their approach to get students interested,” she noted. Teachers need to “pull and come up with creative ways to explain concepts and use current events.”

Using current events is something Rogers is used to. He has students review scholarly journals about material they learn in class. He has them read articles and break down the information in a journal entry.

For example, when his class was learning about the extinction of dinosaurs he assigned them an article to read. In their journal entries, Rogers’ students had to use three pieces of evidence to persuade him on how they think the dinosaurs became extinct. Then they had to form a relation between the data and their opinion.

“For the kids to formulate an opinion they had to know what they were talking about,” Rogers said.

Formulating a clear opinion correlates with Rogers’ goal of literacy in the classroom. The students know about their iPod, but do they know where it came from?

“It makes everything real,” Rogers said.

All in all, Falk noted the New Science Teacher Academy is a way for teachers to network. The program provides full year of resources not many people have.

At the end of the day, though, it’s about keeping students interested in science.

“When I think about why I went into science, my math and science teachers at Bardstown had a major effect on my interests,” Rogers said. “Hopefully, I can have that same effect. My goal is to hopefully get to a point as a teacher where I’m more of a facilitator of how a classroom runs. Where students discover the ideas of science, instead of me telling them.”