Life Science: Session 6
Gail Modugno, Springfield, MA
“My fifth graders start out with a lot of natural curiosity about life science. I think even on the walk home, kids are looking at animals or noticing changes in the seasons. And it’s the curiosity, some of the magic: “Well, why did the leaves change?” So I think the natural interest is there, and all you have to do is bring it up and then really get them to focus on using their scientific skills.”
School at a Glance:
Alice B. Beal Elementary
- Location: Springfield, MA
- Enrollment: 312
African American: 30%
- Percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch: 65% versus a state average of 29%
Gail Modugno teaches fifth-grade math and science at the Alice B. Beal Elementary School in Springfield, MA, the largest city in the state west of Boston. It is a diverse school system, and the school’s enrollment breaks down into nearly perfect thirds between black, Hispanic, and white students. In all areas of state testing, the school’s students score at or above state averages; about 65% of the school’s 312 students receive a free or reduced-price lunch.
The Beal School recently changed its format for fifth grade, assigning its teachers to focus on two subjects and splitting the class into two groups: in the morning, half have math and science while the other half study language arts and social studies, and in the afternoon, they switch.
“When I came into teaching, I was surprised that I fell towards the math and science,” said Gail. “I never expected to, but over the years, that’s just the direction I went in.” When the school made the decision to split the grade and the teaching responsibilities, Gail requested the math and science section, and she now teaches those subjects to all sixty of the school’s fifth graders.
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