A sense of wonder is at the heart of what teacher Jill Brown develops at the Henderson International School. In her words, she “eats, drinks and sleeps science.” Though currently a lower school science teacher at HIS, Brown’s background is in social work, with a master’s degree in elementary education and a minor in science.
Like so many in the Las Vegas Valley, Brown is a transplant from somewhere else. In her case, she claims roots in New Orleans where she experienced the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. What some might describe as a terrible tragedy, she chooses to focus on the incredible bonding that occurred when the community became a cohesive whole. All the survivors became her extended family. Her grandchild’s birth prompted her to uproot and start fresh in Las Vegas, where her enthusiasm inspires the students at Henderson International School every day.
Brown coordinates a very intense elementary science program offered at Henderson International School. Students learn using a hands-on approach called scientific inquiry and are guided to keep and understand quantitative data collected during inquiry in their lab binders. It’s easy to forget that her students are first to fourth graders since the subject matter she describes sounds college level.
The instruction covers earth, life, physical science and astronomy. Students learn to use graduated cylinders, beakers and become familiarized with the Science International units of measure. The elementary curriculum is coordinated with the middle school. Brown describes this practice as very useful for students “to have a concrete mental idea of how each kind of science fits together.”
The curriculum allows her to teach at the surprisingly fast pace of the students, who are soaking up science knowledge like sponges. Because of the flexibility of the program, Brown is able to let students move at their own accelerated pace. They’ve advanced to cover topics like surface tension, plot averages, basic chemistry, viscosity and pH levels.
She loves the creativity involved and the fresh way that science requires her to see the world, with wonder and awe. Brown enjoys explaining science in a way that young minds understand. Working with the lower school students inspires her because they are free to accept information based on what they see and experience.
Brown’s goal with the curriculum is to encourage excitement about the world. She loves that her students bring in bugs, spider webs and honeycombs as a result of their supportive classroom environment. Her energy and enthusiasm has instilled a sense of wonder in their lives.