How did you learn about King’s Gate Christian School?
We had moved back to my hometown in 1997. Hailey, my daughter, was ready for preschool and turned 4. I had a friend that recommended King’s Gate added Kindergarten. We had a tour and fell in love with it! She had been here a year and the former Director, Ms. Susie, asked if we could start a science program for preschool. I had recently taught a conservation biology class at John Hopkins and I loved the idea of helping young children experience a love of science as well.
Where has your science career taken you through the years?
When I came back to Oklahoma I taught some adult education classes at local universities. Ms. Susie asked if I would start a science class at King’s Gate in 1999. I thought I would finish teaching when my children finished kindergarten, but little did I know that I would be starting a journey that would last over 18 years. Every single year I see miracles. The most meaningful miracles are when families come to know Christ and where the kids have been instrumental in that process. I love witnessing when kids fall in love with Jesus because of science.
How does science facilitate conversations about the Gospel?
I use our mission statement as the focal point to my teaching and each year I come up with a theme that coincides with our annual scripture. I want to get kids to fall in love with God’s creation. Side bar: as children grow older it is more difficult to have them fall in love with nature – God’s creation. I know there are probably a lot of practical reasons for that behavior, but I believe the spiritual answer is younger children are more aware of their surroundings. Their brains have not been bombarded with a myriad of information and they take great delight in the simplicity of a butterfly or studying the veins of a leaf.
Why do you place a lot of emphasis on teaching life science with animals?
We have children that have difficulty processing different kinds of sensory information. If a child is on the Autism spectrum, for example, they like to pet animals. It provides them a safe interaction to pet an animal and I witness that they immediately calm down. The more opportunities that we have to explore outside and visit new animals – the better.
What aspect(s) of King’s Gate sets it apart from other schools in Oklahoma City?
Families that attend King’s Gate are here for the kids and they are vested in their child’s learning experience. I love that there is a lot of diversity represented in our school – racially, economically and culturally. The feeling I get in King’s gate, what sets it apart from other schools is the very atmosphere in the halls in and the classrooms. When I walk through these doors- I am able to breath. I feel accepted. Each child is treated as number one at King’s Gate and when our staff works together on a field trip or the with PTO – it feels like a family.
Also, I am grateful that the administration allows me to teach in the way that I believe that these kids can receive science. I pray about it. The flexibility is invaluable. I feel like I really am able to teach in a way that speaks to the needs of each student.
Who influenced your love of science?
My father encouraged me and I also was influenced by the work of Jane Goodall. I was always taking care of animals and I thought I would pursue marine biology, but it was more difficult to find a career in this field. I was in Alaska in the 80’s and a professor called me from the University of Massachusetts. This experience led to my career as an Endangered Species Biologist for the state of Maryland for 6 years. My husband and I also received a grant to implement a research project to understand if chimpanzees were able to learn sign language that focused on playful language (I.e. like play with me or let’s run!” We discovered that the chimpanzees not only readily learned our signs, but also would teach these signs to each other. This research was held in the Portland, Oregon Zoo. We were fortunate to work with Jane Goodall at that time as our research coincided with her research in that season.
What are some practical ways that parents can instill a love for nature and God’s creation in their children?
Have them be more aware by giving them time to experience nature. Have them point things out to you and ask them questions about what they observe. I can’t tell you how many parents will tell me the things that their children are pointing out because of what they learned in science class. Also, Listen. Again- ask them questions. If we are doing a marine unit, then see if you can get a book from the library or take them to the Tulsa Aquarium. Ask them what they did in science. Kids typically tell their parents about their class. Don’t let it be a side comment. Plug for class: parents are more than welcome to come to science and be involved!