Science at Rancho Solano - Q&A with Science Department Faculty

March 20, 2017

Do you know why Rancho Solano students are so excited about science? We caught up with our Science Department faculty to learn more about their classes and to find out what the future holds for the Department.

Gordon Brown – Science Department Chair/STEAM Coordinator
John Costello – Upper School Physics and Algebra
Chris Kotila – Middle School Science
Paul Zukowski – Middle School Science 
Shannon Feaster – Lower School Science

Q: What have you covered this year that your students were most excited about?

Gordon Brown - The most exciting activity that my students are looking forward to is coming up April 3. This is what we call the Group 4 project where all the IB Science students go together and do a group research activity. This year, we are going to Biosphere II for a full day of experimentation in marine science and biome research. Everyone is super excited for this event! 

John Costello – My students were most excited to learn about electricity and light. 

Chris Kotila – The students were excited about the chemistry unit because they were able to do chemical reactions and see how different elements interacted with each other. 

Paul Zukowski Rocketry, by far. The kids were beyond excited when they learned that they’d be able to build and launch their own! 

Shannon Feaster - I think my students are most excited about using the 3D printer to make their projects and learning come to life! 

Q: What do you find most energizing/gratifying about being in the classroom?

Gordon Brown - The most gratifying aspect for me in my classroom is the interaction and challenge that I get from my students. I truly have great students who push me as much as I push them. We work together to find answers and research new and pertinent information. 

John Costello - Helping young people understand complex topics by using simple ideas

Chris Kotila – Seeing the moments when the students really understand and grasp a concept. When it goes from just them reading it to truly understanding what the concept is and how to apply it across different topics. 

Paul Zukowski When the kids ask questions that show they want to understand. When they push their own presuppositions and ask for clarification or make their own analogies to help themselves understand, that’s one of the most exciting things to see as their teacher. 

Shannon Feaster - The students' curiosity in topics and the eagerness and enthusiasm they have when learning! 

Q: What are you excited about regarding next year’s science curriculum? 

Gordon BrownI am super excited in starting the new Vex Robotics program to complement our EPICS and STEAM programs. 

John Costello - Next year, there will be more hands-on building projects for all levels of physics. 

Chris Kotila – I am excited to see the evolution of our Newton’s Laws of Motion unit. We are introducing it into the 7th grade this year, but having the materials and being able to build Pinewood Derby Cars and have a display of previous years will be great. Also, there can be races that include the cars from previous years

Paul Zukowski With the addition of new 3D printers and the integration of VEX robotics, I’m very excited for how the students next year will be able to use the new materials for learning! 

Shannon Feaster I am excited about continuing with our 3D printers, incorporating our new robotics/STEM curriculum, and continuing to build the after school STEM Club! 

Q: Where do you see Rancho Solano’s Science Department in the next few years? 

Gordon Brown The Science Department is continuing to grow and bring new and innovative programs to Rancho. We will continue to grow our award winning EPICS (Engineering Projects In Community Service) program, which is partnered with EPICS High of ASU. We will be introducing our new entrepreneurial program associated with and supported by RTA (Rising Tycoons Academy). We will begin our Vex robotics program at the Lower School this spring and will add to that by introducing Vex competition robotics into our Middle School next year. This will lead into an AIA sanctioned Upper School robotics team and program within the next two years. We are also building towards introducing the first state competitions with drones and robot soccer league. All of this will be supported as part of our STEAM initiative, which is all about collaborative work between disciplines. Our hope is to change how we mold our students for the future and teach the importance of innovation and creativity within their content. 

John Costello - I would like to have every student building their own experiments, questioning the world around them and coming up with testable solutions.

Chris Kotila - I believe that the Science Department is quickly climbing and becoming more advanced with the times.  The Science Department started to embrace the digital age this year by producing the Science Video Newsletters with the Science Guys.  This was the first step and it will only take off from here.  I see the Science Department working with the fine arts to explore the idea of how drones fly, amazing video using drones and the development of the RSPS Robotics Club that has the ability to compete on a regional or national level with Vex robotics.  Also, I see the Science Newsletter becoming a staple of the Science, specifically EPICs, program where it will continue to grow into something that helps define Rancho Solano as a 21st century school.   

Paul Zukowski - Like I said before, with Rancho teaming up with VEX robotics I can see a much heavier focus on applied robotics in the near future. This is an exciting time for students, and they will be able to apply the things they learn in the classroom to real life problems and get a lot of engineering design practice. I’m sure that with these new tech additions and the ones to come, the STE(A)M program will continue to grow and get stronger in the next few years. 

Shannon Feaster - I see Rancho Solano participating in robotics competitions in the near future. I certainly see our STEM/Robotics program expanding as technology expands and giving our students the opportunity to become the future scientists and engineers that solve complex problems and work in industries that don't even exist yet!

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