Karen Puracan is a science teacher at Hale Academy in Ocala, Florida. The school is a small private school with grades PreK-12th. Mrs. Puracan teaches 8th grade integrated science, 6th and 7th grade life science, 8th through 10th grade physical science and high school biology and ecology. To say she teaches a little of everything is an understatement.
Class sizes are small. Her largest class has only 11 and the smallest classes have only three students. This gives Mrs. Puracan the opportunity to really get to know each student and engage them one-on-one – something most teachers today are unable to do. This also allows time to play or “investigate” as Mrs. Puracan calls it with science.
“Since we are a private school, we have the freedom to take our time exploring things in more depth, without worrying about the test,” Mrs. Puracan explains.
Last year, Mrs. Puracan was a physical science “greenhorn” and stuck to the book. She quickly found the book was boring for both herself and her students.
This year, she decided to drop the textbook labs and began using experiments from SteveSpanglerScience.com.
“And, much to my delight, during parent conferences this week, I heard that THINGS WE DO IN CLASS ARE MAKING IT TO THE DINNER TABLE!” says Mrs. Puracan. ” Even if a student struggles on the test, they remember the experiment, and the principle behind it.”
She also has younger students anticipating reaching the upper grades and getting into her classes. They ask her, “when do we get to do the cool stuff?”
The other science teacher, Daren Johnson, a Hale veteran, also teaches math. Mrs. Puracan describes him as “the brave one who likes to make things blow up.”
Mr. Johnson’s class designed a built a working trebuchet which launched pumpkins 30 feet on Halloween. It also launched a basketball 120 feet.
Mrs. Puracan has conducted Density Towers, Bubbling Density Concoctions, Boo Bubbles and Bouncing Bubbles, Solar Bag, Wind Bags, Egg Drop, Cartesian Divers and other inertia stunts. We had the honor of meeting Ms. Puracan at one of Steve’s Boot Camps in Orlando, Florida this past fall.
More recently, Mrs. Puracan did the Musical Staws experiment in her class. The class thought it sounded like an oboe and cut small finger holes in the far end. They can play actual notes and sort of a scale.
During her Density Tower lesson, she challenged her students to figure out what order to put the liquids in. It took them four class periods, but they did it.
We salute Mrs. Puracan and Mr. Johnson. They are amazing teachers making a difference in the educational lives of their students.