Facilitating Wonder: An Interview with Dr. Mo

Field Notes From the Amazon

Meet Dr. Molina (Mo) Walters

Clinical Associate Professor, Arizona State University, Mary Lou Fulton Teacher College

Dr. Mo is a dynamo and over the last two summers we’ve had the pleasure of spending time in the Amazon with her.  Her passion for education is contagious! As an elementary and secondary science methods professor her energy and enthusiasm for developing the next generation of exceptional educators is evident in everything she does.   We are super excited that Mo will co-lead our 2013 Educator Academy in the Amazon!   We asked Dr. Mo to share her thoughts on the magical interface of the Amazon, science education, and the facilitation of wonder.

Mo, you’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Amazon over the last two summers. What is it about the Amazon that has captivated you and compels you to keep coming back? 

The Amazon is a magical place.  My first visit took my breath away.  I was then and still am awed and enlightened by its grandeur, beauty, and diversity.  Few places on earth can rival the rich diversity, both cultural and ecological of the Amazon rainforest.  It’s an outdoor classroom that will teach you about life, your place in the world, and about yourself. 

Next summer you are heading up our Educator Academy in the Amazon.  As you prepare to lead that field experience, what is the one thing, the most important thing, you want participants to take from their time in the Amazon?

The Amazon is at the heart of our planet and all life.  What we do and how we live will impact all other earth systems.  As educators and individuals we can make a difference!

This quote reminds me of you, “…the role of (an) educator is subtle – not to just raise awareness, but to encourage perception and facilitate wonder.” (Mitchell Thomashow).  As a  “teacher of teachers” your job at ASU  is to prepare the next generation of classroom teachers.  How do help your students balance the demands of high stakes testing and the tidal wave of standards reform with their role as “facilitators of wonder”?

High stakes testing will always contribute challenges to teaching and learning.  The variables that contribute to these challenges are many.  However, the standards that inform the development of high stakes tests emphasize questioning, problem solving, inquiry, and applying those skills to science content via real world applications.   My goal with students, of all ages and in all settings, is to stimulate and facilitate their own sense of wonder and curiosity by offering them many opportunities to question, explore, and take risks. 

 I help my students develop a sense wonder through inquiry-based discovery activities and then they practice demonstrating their own learning – a model that is transferable to the classroom. I actively model this strategy by sharing my own joy and enthusiasm for learning, stimulating the students’ natural curiosity and making the connections between this innate characteristic to know and understand our world with demonstration what we think and comprehend.  As a facilitator, one of the ways I model my own sense of wonder is through what I call “Think Alouds”.  My Think Alouds consist of my posing questions, demonstrating my own thought processes, and revealing my own sense of wonder.

 A sense of wonder leads to exploration which opens the door to discovery and ultimately the construction of knowledge.  Through this construction of knowledge, deep and lasting understanding is attained.  That, I believe should be the goal of all standards-based education and testing!

Well said Dr. Mo, well said!   Can’t wait to join you in the Amazon next summer during the 2013 Educator Academy in the Amazon!


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