Looking beyond paper and pencil

The Concord Consortium’s Teacher Ambassador program commemorates our 25th anniversary by recognizing 25 outstanding teachers who have included our digital inquiry resources into their STEM classrooms. We congratulate them on their innovation and creativity.

Stephanie Harmon, Rockcastle County High School, Mount Vernon, KY

“I love the look of amazement and confidence when someone makes connections and understands what is happening,” says Stephanie Harmon, who’s beginning her 24th year in a high school classroom. She was named Kentucky Science Teacher Association’s Outstanding High School Science Teacher in 2014, and currently teaches physics and advanced physical science and Earth science at Rockcastle County High School in Mount Vernon, and introductory astronomy at Eastern Kentucky University.

Teacher Ambassador Stephanie Harmon

She first learned about Concord Consortium resources when searching for authentic simulations for her Earth science classes. After doggedly searching through both paid and free resources, she discovered High-Adventure Science: “The simulations are sophisticated, and argumentation sets help students make sense of the phenomena.”

In her first year using High-Adventure Science, she overheard a special needs student explaining permeability to his partner during an activity on groundwater movement. “He talked about the model in ways that paper and pencil experiences could never address,” she explains. Another time, a student who almost never spoke up in class explained to her that being able to talk through concepts with a partner made him “feel smart.”

“Of all the science experiences I have had and all the curricula I have examined,” she says, “High-Adventure Science has had the greatest impact on student learning of anything I have used.” In 2018, Stephanie co-authored an article in NSTA’s Science Teacher magazine with Concord Consortium researchers on how she used High-Adventure Science modules to help her Earth science students “consider scientific evidence as they develop critical thinking and scientific argumentation skills.”

Stephanie continues to be excited about the ways technology can engage her students in learning. But she thinks many teachers feel overwhelmed by recent changes in science education. “Teachers understand their content and know their students, but they need time and opportunities to examine new resources and interact with other professionals.”

When she’s not searching for new ways to reach her students, Stephanie enjoys making needlepoint keepsakes for her family. But nothing beats sitting on a beach in Mexico watching hundreds of sea turtles emerge from the sand and make their way to the ocean. Kind of like watching her students go out into the world. “My current students have so many interesting ideas,” she says. “I think their innovations will lead to advances that will have a tremendous impact on society.”

Favorite ice cream: Breyer’s Natural Vanilla