Blakely Island prepares future educators

Student-teachers, alumni reflect on their time at Blakely, how they have incorporated biology in classrooms

Sophie Hanson and Lillian Biddle gaze out onto the surrounding San Juan Islands during their trip to Blakely Island in May 2022. (Courtesy of Lillian Biddle).

For those who are wanting a teaching credential, students begin to teach a classroom toward the end of their college career, as a certain amount of hours in the classroom must be met before they obtain certification. In the state of Washington, student teachers must have a minimum of 450 hours in the classroom.

Regardless of what area and grade level education majors desire to teach, Dr. Elena Brezynski of Seattle Pacific University believes it is vital for future educators to learn biology.

“When these students become teachers, they are going to have a range of kids in that classroom,” Brezynski said. “Some who could go on to cure cancer, invent things; but they can be switched off science if their teacher is afraid of science.”

Blakely Island is only one of the many steps in this journey these future educators must take.

Sophie Hanson, a 2023 graduate and a substitute teacher for Seattle Public Schools has been able to take what she learned on Blakely Island to teaching elementary school students.

“The biggest takeaway for me was how applicable this is to kiddos,” Hanson said. “They learn about life cycles, plants and animals. Being able to know the in-depth science behind it makes me able to answer any sort of question they have.”

One day when Hanson was teaching fifth grade, the children were learning about ecosystems, specifically tide pools and it brought Hanson back to when she went to Blakely Island with Dr. Brezynski’s class in 2022. 

Lillian Biddle, a senior and student-teacher at John Hay Elementary School also went to Blakely in 2022. Biddle teaches general education in kindergarten, and K-2 special education.

“It really gave me an appreciation for science, and for teaching science that I definitely brought back into the classroom with me,” Biddle said. 

Lillian Biddle, Miss Lillian to her students, reminds her kindergarteners to look at the whiteboard in April 2024. (Perris Larson/ Seattle Pacific University).

On Blakely, students were able to see tide pools, fungi, multiple ecosystems with their own eyes rather than seeing them on a powerpoint. 

Student-teacher at McDonald International School for second and third grade, Chloe Lavigne reflects on the aspects of Dr. Brezynski’s class that has been incorporated into the students curriculum. Lavigne’s class recently had a unit on salmon that tied in with their social studies. In the class, children learned how salmon are a keystone species, a fact that Lavigne remembered from her time in Brezynski’s class as well as her time on Blakely Island. 

For Lavigne, the trip to Blakely Island showed the benefits of teaching outside of classrooms.

While observing the tide pools on Blakely Island, Chloe Lavigne comes across a purple starfish tucked into a crevice. (Courtesy of Chloe Lavigne).

“I feel like a lot of the time we get stuck in the classroom,” Lavigne said. “Sometimes it is by necessity, but I think there are lots of opportunities to get outside and have more experiential learning.”

Brezynski has been taking students to Blakely for about a decade, emphasizing the importance of teaching about the world we live in, how everything is connected. Brezynski hopes that these future educators will be able to show their students the importance of science, whether it be through a nature walk or even a class pet.

Back when they were only sophomores in college, these educators stuck their noses into tide pools. Now, they are able to tackle biology in their own classrooms with the confidence Blakely Island provided.

“Being able to know the in-depth science behind it makes me able to answer any sort of questions the kiddos have,” Hanson said.

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