Category Archives: MAT Secondary

2017 Teacher Research Project Conference

On May 17, 2017, Brown MAT students gathered at The Wheeler School in Providence to present their year-long teacher research projects. Director of Teacher Education Daniel Bisaccio welcomed everyone to the conference.

Dulari Tahbildar (Brown ’00), executive director of Breakthrough Providence whose works centers on educational equity and social justice, provided the keynote address. Dulari challenged the MAT students by participating in an exercise that encouraged them to reflect on their own teaching experiences and what they hope to do and be in the future classroom.

After a brief reception for students, faculty, mentors, and friends, 39 MAT students presented their projects during three 30-minute sessions. Visitors ambled from room to room to view presentations on computers and on posterboards, some with visual aids ranging from completed classroom assignments to student poems to taxonomy.

Read on to see candid conference photos of some of the presenters and their projects: Continue reading

4/1/17 Brandwein Lecture at NSTA – Los Angeles

Emma Marris

Brown MAT Science Educator Director Dan Bisaccio will be presiding at the Brandwein Lecture at NSTA / LA 2017 on Saturday, April 1, from 11:00 a.m.-noon in Petree Hall C, Los Angeles Convention Center and has invited environmental author Emma Marris to be NSTA’s 2017 Brandwein Lecturer, presenting “Nearby Wilderness, Novel Ecosystems, and Connecting to Nature.” Please join us!

Emma Marris will talk about how nearby nature and overlooked wild corners in urban and suburban spaces can be used to connect students to nature. Weedy patches can be hotspots of diversity and overgrown fields are rich with data about how nature will adapt to a changing climate and the pervasive influence of humankind. Marris will make the case that thinking of nature as only large parks or protected areas far away contributes to alienation from nature and leaves out students who cannot afford to visit national parks or buy expensive gear. A recent study that showed more UK students could recognize Pokemon species than a sparrow provoked widespread horror, but don’t forget that sparrows are the ultimate urban bird.

See Emma’s TED Talk, “Nature Is Everywhere; We Just Need to Learn to See It” here.

Emma Marris has written for many magazines and newspapers, including National GeographicDiscover, the New York Times and Slate. She has a Master’s in Science Writing from Johns Hopkins University and worked for many years as a reporter for the journal Nature. In 2011, she published her first book, Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. In 2016, she gave at TED talk about seeing the hidden nature that surrounds us and won a National Association of Science Writer’s “Science in Society” award for a commentary in Orion about our responsibility to save species—even at the cost of wildness. She grew up in Seattle, Washington, and lives with her husband and two children in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

3/13 Environmental Leadership in Education Conference

Don’t miss our environmental leadership conference next Monday from 6-8 p.m.!

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Featuring keynote speaker Cheryl Charles (see her Ted Talk here)  and former Children and Nature Network president/CEO, and Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H Senior Program Coordinator David Foord, who will present his video, “Inspiring a New Generation: The Pathway to Nature for All.” Free to attend; register here!

Brown Director of Science Presents at NEEEA

At this year’s New England Environmental Education Alliance conference, held in Litchfield, CT from Nov. 4-6, Brown University’s Director of Science Education Dan Bisaccio presented “Mapping Nest Success in Migratory Birds” to educators from around the region. Bisaccio, who is also the director of graduate studies for Brown’s MAT program, instructed fellow educators on using field-based inquiry to visualize nest disturbance data using maps.

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Bisaccio helping a student use field-based inquiry

In Bisaccio’s hands-on field exercises, students craft artificial nests and eggs of migratory birds and investigate the impact of forest fragmentation on nesting success. Locations of the nests are then mapped using GPS and nest disturbance analyzed, and the data and process allow students to learn about global habitat connections and conservation issues for migratory birds in an exciting, interactive way. Students as researchers can then share their data with other students around the country using HabitatNet.

Meet Professor Andrea Flores!

Andrea_FloresAndrea Flores will be an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at Brown University starting this Fall 2016. Her research focuses on how Latino youth who participate in a college readiness program in Nashville, Tennessee conceptualize the value of higher education and civic engagement for themselves, their families, and their communities. In particular, Andrea focuses on how educational aspiration is tied to Latino youth’s senses of self and feelings of socio-civic inclusion in the United States. Andrea is also interested in the role of school-community partnerships in both facilitating persistence in school and reshaping public education. Her next project follows a group of students she previously worked with as they transition into private religious colleges.

Prior to graduate school, Andrea worked as a research assistant at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she worked on projects on youth’s online ethics and young people’s conceptions of trust. Her work at Project Zero inspired her to pursue graduate work related to adolescents and education. She received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology at Harvard University and her doctoral degree in anthropology at Brown University. An NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, a grant from the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund, and fellowships from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation have supported her research. This fall, she will teach Education 1450, The Psychology of Teaching and Learning. As the sister of two elementary school teachers, she is very excited to be teaching in the MAT program. She is looking forward to getting to know the MAT students this fall and follow their progress during the year!

Student Perspective: A Visit (and Some Inspiration) from Penny Kittle

Bridget Sheppard is a current Master of Arts in Teaching student concentrating in Secondary English Education. This semester, the English MAT classroom was visited by a very special guest speaker, Penny Kittle, an English teacher, author, and student advocate. Bridget has graciously shared with us some of her thoughts and reflections on the experience. Read her words below!


There are those books you encounter that entirely change the way you see something–those moments of discovery that shift your perspective. For me, “Book Love” by Penny Kittle was one of those transformative books. So you can imagine my excitement when Ms. Kittle, also the author of “Write Beside Them,” visited Brown to talk with current English MATs, alumni, and local teachers.

During her presentation, Ms. Kittle shared more about her teaching philosophy: she believes that English class should be more focused on students discovering a love of books and of learning. She encourages this through a curriculum that has students each semester read one whole class novel, one option for a book club with other students, and their own independent reading.

As she showed us videos of her students discussing their reading and conferencing with her about books, it was clear how impactful this approach could be. One of her students in a video interview said he had never read any books for school before, but this year had read an entire stack of them–and the best part of this fact was the pride he had in saying it. What is so inspiring about Ms. Kittle is how she cares about and listens to her students and believes that they will find the books that resonate with them–they sense this belief she has in them and this love she has for books, and eventually, they believe it, too.

These moments of her students stood out to me among the million other ideas that stayed with me after the talk. I left Ms. Kittle’s presentation with enough enthusiasm and new ideas that I wanted to burst into a classroom the next morning and start trying them out right away. I wanted to try Draftback on Google Docs, I wanted to have students create their own reading ladders, I wanted to conference with students, I wanted to build up my own classroom library, I wanted to have book talks, and I wanted to have students freewrite and edit like we did on the idea of “Being 12” (sidenote: if you haven’t seen this video on YouTube, you should watch it–right after you finish reading this).

But most of all, I left wanting to see students discover the books that they love–the books that will make them fall in love with stories the way that Harry Potter did for me and did for my friend Hannah (Ms. Kittle’s daughter, who was also at the talk), the books that will then lead them to making friends with someone equally as enthused about them (because Harry Potter is part of the foundation of my friendship with Hannah–I’m refraining now from delving into an analysis of our Houses). I left wanting to put the ideas I learned from Ms. Kittle into practice, so that my students can find the books–like “Book Love” for me–that change the way they see the world.

Penny Kittle with English MATs, alumni, and local teachers

Alumni Reunite at National Science Teachers Association Convention

MATs at NSTA
Professor Dan Bisaccio reunited with several recent Science MAT alumni at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference in Nashville, TN.

Pictured, Prof. Bisaccio poses with Brianna Balke (Science ’13), Warren Predizet (Science ’14), and Beth Leach-Savage (Science ’10). Other MAT alumni in attendance at the conference were Emily Berman (Science ’14) and Natalie Tarr (Science ’15).

Student Perspective: English MATs attend “Educating for Change” Conference in St. Louis

This February, three current English MAT students, Victor Ha, Lucy Short, and Fritha Wright, traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to attend the Annual Educating for Change Conference, an event that focuses on social justice education in classrooms and communities. At the conference, these students had the amazing opportunity to present the results of their Teacher Research Projects, which MAT students complete during their student teaching semester as a means to explore and evaluate their own teaching practices.

Vic, Lucy, and Fritha were kind enough to share their experiences attending the conference; read their words below!


“We don’t always win, but we don’t stop fighting because we didn’t win.”
– Linda Christensen on making space for hope in the Social Justice English classroom

Fritha Wright, Victor Ha, and Lucy Short

This conference began as a dream to exchange plans, goals, and hopes for the social justice classroom. We stumbled upon the Educators for Social Justice conference, Educating for Change, while we were in between classes. Following our student-teaching semesters, we longed for the communities we’d nurtured with former students but dreamt of the curriculum we would build around our future ones.

With the combined support of the Education Department Graduate Student Conference Fund and the Brown Graduate School Graduate Student Conference Travel Fund, we ended up in St. Louis, Missouri to learn from local educators and keynote speaker, Linda Christensen. (St. Louis in February is beautiful!) After honing our Teacher Research Projects for this new audience, we felt exhilarated at the prospect of sharing the inspiring work of our students.

Vic shared his writing mini-workshops from his Race Studies unit. Researching and responding to nonfiction texts about race, students strengthened their ability to produce original analytical claims. Fritha presented her research on scaffolding literary analysis and using texts like poetry, lyrics, and music videos to engage students interests and identities and invite them to voice their unique insights and analysis. Lucy spoke with St. Louis area educators about the poetry journals her students created and how to foster expression in the ELA classroom through reading, reflection, and resistance.

As exciting as it was to share our original research with others, perhaps most meaningful of all was the opportunity to listen to, speak with, and explore alongside Linda Christensen, an educator who has devoted her life to innovating what it means to foster a simultaneously critical and hopeful classroom. In her keynote address, Christensen presented a unit on gentrification that employed student-centered inquiry to address contemporary notions of home, space, and belonging. In a workshop, Christensen engaged educators in critical discussions about how language and power shape each other. In closing, Christensen shared an incisive remark from a student about the importance of building community through honoring others’ narratives.

After the workshop, we all had the opportunity to ask Christensen questions about advice she had for us as new teachers entering the field. Her response was simple, “Be brave.” After a short but powerful weekend, we left St. Louis energized to teach expansively, think critically, and hope ardently.

Victor Ha, Brown B.A 2015, Brown English MAT 2016
Lucy Short, Brown English MAT 2016
Fritha Wright, Brown English MAT 2016

Dan Bisaccio Presents on Next Generation Science Standards

Dan HeadshotProfessor Dan Bisaccio, Director of Science Education, presented two workshops at the Rhode Island Science Teachers Association Conference this past weekend (March 12, 2016). His topics included: Using Backwards Design to Identify Instructional Sequences that Prepare Students for NGSS Assessments and Modeling a NGSS Science Lesson using Inquiry and Engineering Practices.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) call for a shift in teachers’ practices in teaching and assessment of science. It is crucial for science teachers to develop the knowledge and skills in creating and implementing instructional and assessment tasks that align with the NGSS.

Student Perspective: Allie Curry on Curriculum Development

Allie CurryAllie Curry is a current Master of Arts in Teaching student concentrating in Secondary English Education. During her time student teaching at Brown Summer High School, Allie discovered a passion for the backwards-design approach to curriculum development taught by the Brown MAT Program.

Allie was kind enough to share with us some of her thoughts and reflections on this approach to teaching. Read her words below!


“I often think of K–12 curriculum as too important. In the hotly contested era of the Common Core, the American public debates whether curriculum is too important to be left to states or too important to be promoted by the federal government. In some urban school districts, curriculum is viewed as too important to be developed by teachers in the community, and so many cities are purchasing boxed curricula.

The Brown MAT program has taught me that curriculum is too important in a different sense. Beginning last summer in the first days of the program, I learned an approach to curriculum design that centers around Essential Questions—challenging, relevant, and authentic questions we ask about the world—and understandings, which, in the discipline of English at least, are rarely simple answers. With my talented teaching partner (another MAT), I developed a unit for a book we would teach to a diverse classroom of 9th through 12th graders over the course of Brown Summer High School, a free summer enrichment program for Providence-area youth.

In the afternoons, we paused our planning to take a Secondary program-wide course that has greatly influenced my teaching. Literacy Across the Curriculum challenged me to rethink my understanding of literacy and create curriculum that reflects and supports the community I teach. (I’ve thought about that class a lot in the first days of February. Curriculum—culturally relevant curriculum, that is—is too important to designate only a month of the year to the accomplishments of Black Americans.)

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I posed the question in the picture above (“Does the identity of the authors we read matter?”), as a part of a unit I designed during my student teaching semester last fall at a suburban public school south of Providence, North Kingstown High School. In my student teaching semester, I iterated and refined my curriculum design process to the point that I now feel prepared, confident, and excited to begin my first teaching job in an environment that will empower me to develop curriculum of real significance to my students and community.

The Brown MAT program will teach you to design and carry out lessons, units, and learning experiences that matter. Over the course of the program, I’ve seen many times how an Essential Questions curriculum encourages students to discover and construct knowledge in ways that will transfer to their lives beyond school. Ultimately, curriculum is too important because all students deserve access to challenging, relevant questions about the world and safe, supportive classrooms in which they can develop and express their diverse understandings.”