By Bree Collar, Sentinel Staff Writer
After two-and-a-half years, two educators achieved special recognition June 9, 2019 when they were notified they would be published in the Science and Children Journal.
Katy Roberson, first grade teacher at West Fannin Elementary School (WFES) and Jocelyn Miller, former high school biology teacher and parent of children who Roberson once taught, partnered on a project about bats.
“The original idea to build a bat house came from a student,” Roberson said. She was reading “Stella Luna” in a class when a student started a discussion about a bat house his family installed at their house in 2017.
Roberson and Miller worked together to design and execute a unit for the classroom, then Miller suggested submitting it for publication based on the high interest level the students exhibited during the project.
They compiled information gathered by Miller who traveled to a bat conference at West Georgia College. She then came back and taught Roberson’s class everything she learned. “I am also a Georgia Master Naturalist,” Miller said. She is currently working on her doctorate in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM).
“Our partnership was a perfect match,” Miller said. In March 2019 they first submitted the piece and three months later found out the article was accepted for publication.
Roberson said submitting the article was an arduous process requiring an initial submission, re-submitting and then submitting a final time, based on recommendations for editing.
After a year into the initial bat project at WFES, Miller said she knew there was something special worth sharing. “I have been a member of the National Science Teaching Association for close to 20 years and recognized this project as something other teachers around the country would show an interest in,” Miller said.
The involvement of 6- and 7-year old first graders at WFES was the inspiration for Miller to suggest they consider journal publication.
Miller said, “It completely changed my perception of elementary science. When 6- and 7-year-old children can research and design something that impacts their community, it raises the bar for science education across the board.”
As this was the first time either Roberson or Miller had submitted a manuscript for publication for peer review, it provided an amazing learning experience, they both agreed.
Once the editor of Science & Children Journal reviewed the piece, she provided critiques and asked for further clarification from the authors.
After she approved the piece, three anonymous peer reviewers provided additional critiques. The paper was resubmitted to the editor who then approved it for publication.
After changes were made for a fifth time the piece went to the graphic design department for layout and production.
“The experience of this process provided us with feedback from experts and gave us the ability to reflect on how young students interact with authentic science content,” Miller said.
In the near future Roberson plans to have her students design and install a pond for the bat house. Bats are attracted to water sources, so a pond will only add to learning.
“Our long term goal for this project is to raise awareness throughout Blue Ridge of the importance of this special mammal,” Roberson said.
Agricultural production locally provides an environment for bats to act as an alternative to harmful pesticides, Roberson added.
“We want people to be informed of these creatures and hopefully transition from fear to familiarity,” she said.
As an educator Roberson said she would love to be part of future publications. “I think it’s important for adults in our community to model writing and literacy skills for our kids,” Roberson said.
Miller also has plans to collaborate on additional publications in the near future.
Anyone in the community who would like to make donations to help raise funds for the WFES pond, contact Parent Liaison Shannon Cioffi at 706-492-3644.