ELKHART ¬— Douglas Hunnings, a sixth-grade teacher at Riverview Elementary School, received the 2013 Cheryl Cowan Memorial Award for Innovative Elementary Science Teaching at the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. (HASTI), annual conference in Indianapolis Feb. 7.
Hunnings was nominated for the state science award, which recognizes outstanding teachers who exhibit a passion for innovative science teaching, by Susan Disch, assistant executive director of ETHOS (Encouraging Technology and Hands On Science) and Danae Wirth, an instructional science specialist for Elkhart Community Schools and a member of the HASTI board of directors.
“Douglas was nominated because of his dedication to provide science education to his students and his commitment to authentic integration across the curriculum when the expectations in other curricular areas have greatly reduced time for science at the elementary level,” Wirth said. “He has displayed natural teaching skills and abilities that go far beyond his relatively young teaching career.”
Hunnings, a fifth-year teacher, became a science liaison for Elkhart as part of the Math Science Partnership grant with ECS and ETHOS. Over the course of three years, he has participated in more than 240 hours of professional development, moving from novice to expert science teacher.
Wirth said Hunnings has been a significant resource to his grade level peers across the district by serving on the science adoption committee, developing technology resources to enhance grade six curriculum, and sharing his knowledge at local, state, and national science workshops. He has been a presenter at both the HASTI conference and the National Science Teachers Association conference.
What Hunnings likes best about teaching science is that the critical-thinking and process skills students learn carry over to other subjects as well. “I’m seeing the skills kids are picking up in science, such as inference or prediction, being used in the classroom throughout the day,” Hunnings stated. “It’s so cool.”
He encourages elementary educators timid about teaching science to be willing to learn with and from their students. “Let their enthusiasm and natural curiosity rub off on you,” he said. “They can be your best teaching tools.”