WATERLOO — What came first, the chicken or the cellophane?
Waterloo High School science teacher Lisa Parish and her students tried to answer that question last year. Because of that, she has been accepted to the first class of the National Teachers Guild fellowship winners.
Parish is one of 10 teachers from across the United States selected for her innovative teaching methodologies and creative instructional practices. She was nominated by school Superintendent Terri Bavis.
Parish was in San Francisco at the end of July for the start of the Guild Fellowship year.
Guild Fellows are “creating change for and from their classrooms.”
“Through the one-year fellowship, teachers will design an innovative solution, share it across their school or district, and be a part of a cohort of 10 exceptional educators from across the country who believe in the power of teacher ideas to transform education from the ground up,” said a Teachers Guild spokesperson in a press release.
Bavis said she has encouraged Waterloo teachers to “dream big” and use innovative techniques to engage students in the learning process, making it something much more than a teacher lecturing students in a classroom.
Bavis said last school year saw Parish and her environmental science and biology juniors and seniors get involved in a project that tried to replicate and validate the claim of a Japanese school that they could bring chicken embryos to life outside the eggshell.
“They had three trials of nurturing embryos outside the eggshell, in a yolk and cellophane, in a controlled environment, using the school’s 1950s-era incubator,” Bavis said.
“They did a presentation to the school board and it was impressive,” Bavis said. “The kids showed a real interest in the scientific method and a passion for seeing if they could validate the Japanese student’s claims. It was inspiring.”
When she was at a conference in San Francisco with 10 teachers from Waterloo, she attended a session on technology. She said she immediately thought of Parish’s chicken embryo project and asked her if she wanted to apply for a fellowship. Parish agreed — and was selected.
A Scotia native, Parish is a graduate of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. She loved the outdoors and has been a teacher in Waterloo for 14 years.
“My Gemini or college biology class students saw a video of the Japanese chicken embryo project,” Parish said. “I asked if they wanted to try and replicate that to see if they could validate what they did. They said yes, and I let them go to town.
“They did all the work, including the research and getting things like oxygen tanks from North Seneca Ambulance and a local dentist and equipment from Hobart and William Smith, Cornell and FLCC. They planned out exactly how they were going to do it and tweeted it online. Then the classroom went global.
“That project changed how I looked at teaching. It unearthed a passion and convinced me that the more we engage and involve kids in real-life problem-solving, the better we all will be. They are the ones who will be solving future problems.
“The kids were watching over the embryos late into the night and early in the morning and on weekends. They were enthralled with the scientific process taking place in front of them.”
The project concluded that having a chicken embryo survive outside the eggshell was not validated, although two embryos lived 21 days.
As a Teachers Guild fellow, Parish will attend six virtual training sessions in the upcoming school year; do a new experiment with her students; coach other teachers online; and participate in 10 conference calls with the other Teacher Guild winners.
The upcoming year will see some students again try to see if chicken embryos can survive outside the eggshell. A brand-new incubator has been purchased to use in the project.
Her new project will focus on climate change, with field work to check the impact of Seneca Meadows on the local environment.
Additionally, Waterloo science students will participate in a Finger Lakes Institute Youth Climate Change Summit in Geneva in October.
Parish’s teaching has helped enrollment in one of her science classes skyrocket from four to about 25.
“l’d like to see this happen in all our classes, not just science,” Bavis said. “Every child should want to come to school, once they find a passion that engages them. That’s what personalized learning is all about, empowering teachers and students to open new horizons.”
“I’m in awe of what the kids accomplished last year and can’t wait for the new school year,” Parish added.