Nancy Bullard isn't an astronaut, but she plays one on TikTok. She's also played a chicken and launched a catapult.
Bullard, a science-lab teacher at Huntingtowne Farms Elementary, is using TikTok and Instagram to post science lessons for her students during remote learning. Often in costume, Bullard walks her students through interactive experiments that are easily done from home.
When Bullard started teaching from home in March, she knew she would have to be creative to reach her students. "I teach every student in the school from kindergarten through fifth grade," she said. "It is not possible to do smaller group sessions with all of these students. So I had to figure out a way to reach them."
Bullard decided to use social media tools she knew her students were already using to create "Mrs. B TV." She gives families access to easy and engaging science activities they can do remotely using materials from around the house. Many of the activities are designed for students to do alone because Bullard knows most parents are working. Other teachers assign students these activities as part of their science instruction. "Kids are responding really well," said Bullard. "I get daily emails from students showing me their creations. Kids are also posting the activities on their personal Instagram and TikTok accounts and then tagging me to show me their work."
Bullard posts a wide variety of experiments. She dressed as an astronaut to welcome students to her home lab. She dressed like a chicken to walk her students through the "naked egg" experiment, where she placed an egg in vinegar and waited for three days. The egg shed its shell and took on the texture of a rubber ball. In another video, Bullard took a white flower and dyed the stems with food coloring to change the flower's color.
Elementary Science Specialist Darlene Petranick started sharing Mrs. B TV videos with other science teachers in the district. The videos are reaching students not only in CMS, but around the country and world. Bullard heard from a student in South Korea who did one of her experiments. "I had to put it into Google Translate to figure out what she was saying," said Bullard. Some of her videos have received more than 30,000 views. Bullard was recently recognized by the Charlotte Agenda for her videos and has been contacted by a technology firm to record content for their channels.
"Mrs. B is a role model for science teachers across the district," said Petranick. "Her passion for teaching science is evident in everything that she does and her dedication to ensuring equitable access for her students as well as all students in the district is admirable. CMS is truly lucky to have a teacher like Mrs. B."
Bullard is enjoying the challenge of creating new content. "One of the most challenging things about being a teacher is staying relevant," she said. "Whether it is the latest dance trend or Fortnite, we have to find our kids on the platforms they're comfortable with. A kindergarten student may not know how to log into Google Classroom or Canvas, but they can watch an Instagram video."
Even though she's enjoying making videos, Bullard misses face-to-face instruction. "I miss the sounds of failure and excitement and the sounds of science," she said. "Learning is happening in the comments section now. Kids are responding, but it is not the same. I miss them."