When one walks into a certain fourth grade classroom at Warren L. Miller Elementary school, Mansfield, they will immediately notice the plethora of science equipment exhibited around the room such as barometers and graduated cylinders, charts and lab tables, in exchange for student desks. These are all tools Julie Weaver uses to enhance the learning experience for her students
"I display these tools in the classroom because I want the children to wonder what it is and what it is used for," Weaver said.
Each year, children are excited to advance to the fourth grade because they look forward to using these tools as they explore the world of science.
One of the projects Weaver is well known for is her embryology project that takes place in the spring. She says the children always are most excited to participate in this one because they get to raise chickens. The 4-H department in Mansfield has donated the incubators and Weaver usually gets some eggs from a relative that has a farm. They start out with about 40 eggs and watch them until they hatch. The chicks are then given back to the farm.
Another interesting project that takes place in Weaver's classroom is the dissection of owl pellets. The children learn how owls digest their food and then regurgitate it. What remains is a pellet with fossil like bones of its prey.
Learning even takes place outside of the classroom as well. In the fall of each school year, Weaver's class takes a field trip to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. There they hike the turkey trail, have lunch and study the local landforms in Pennsylvania.
"I want to try to instill the sense of wonder in them every day," Weaver said. "I don't want them to just look around and accept things the way they are. I want them to be curious and wonder why."
Inside and outside of Weaver's classroom it's all about exploration. Perhaps one of the reasons Weaver is so passionate about exploring is because she used to do some herself. After graduating from Amherst College in Massachusetts with a degree in geology, she worked as an exploration geologist for six years in Houston, Texas. She worked for the Pennzoil Company looking for oil fields.
After getting married and moving to Pennsylvania, Weaver attended Mansfield University to get her teaching certification. She taught Earth science at a high school in Corning, New York, for two years before coming to the Mansfield School District. Weaver is now in her 27th year of teaching. She also can be found teaching undergraduate courses on Thursday evenings at Mansfield University.
Just as Weaver wants her students to learn by doing, she does the same. When she is not in the classroom, she can be found in her garden. Weaver is growing tomatoes, onions, peppers, spinach, okra, asparagus, lettuce, raspberries and the list goes on.
"My goal is to grow all the food that we eat. We're not there yet, but we're coming close," she said.
Weaver shares the love of science with her husband, John, who is a middle school science teacher in the Wellsboro Area School District; her son, Andrew, who lives in Oklahoma; and her daughter, Sophie, who will be graduating this spring from Colby College, Waterville, Maine, with a degree in biology.
Weaver may be the most senior teacher at the elementary level, but that just means that she has had the most opportunities to make memories and influence many lives. When asked what her favorite memory has been over the years, she tells the story of a student of hers that had come back to visit years after graduating from college and told Weaver that she had become a scientist too.
This made Weaver delighted to hear. This exemplifies her daily goal of trying to get every child to smile and get excited about learning.