FIRTH-- She saw it, liked it and then was a part of it.

That’s the bones behind how Norris Middle School teacher Betsy Barent got her name on an iTunes University course that has now reached 10,000 downloads.

The free course titled “How Science Works” downloadable from any Apple device aims to teach about the scientific method and what scientists actually do.

“I just love it that we are reaching so many people,” Barent said. “Science is something we all do every day. We all have an inner scientist.”

Several years ago Barent saw an article that featured the University of California, Berkeley’s website called “Understanding Science.” She emailed the creators to tell them how she liked their ideas and began building a relationship with Judy Scotchmoor who was the assistant director of the UC Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley and coordinator of “Understanding Science” at the time.

The relationship led to the website creators flying Barent out several times to California to first edit the website and then again in November 2012 to work on the iTunes course based on the website that went live in September.

“One of their big pushes is to connect with the public on how science works because there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what science is and how scientists actually do their jobs and what happens,” Barent said.

The iTunes course is a lot like a book, but is filled with PDFs and links to videos. Barent said they tried to write the course for multiple age groups from middle school on up and especially for home-schooled students.

Barent fits the iTunes course into her curriculum as well when teaching the scientific method during experiments with her students.

“A lot of people think the scientific method is a linear process and you do step one, step two, step three, step four, step five and you’re done, but really science works a lot more like a pinball machine,” Barent said. “It is really just a dynamic process and it proves that science never ends.”

Barent’s eighth grade classroom is filled with student projects on the sides of walls and large papers filled with circles illustrating how students used the “pinball” way to solve their experiments.

“I like coming in here,” eighth grader Dominic Pelini said. “She knows how to work you, but she doesn’t overdue it, so you still pay attention.”

Barent has been teaching at Norris for eight years and taught at Gretna High School prior for five years. She received her degree in biology from Simpson College and her master’s in biological sciences from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

She said she likes to keep her students busy with interactive projects, so they continue to work through the material, but don’t know they are.

“The ways she explains things rather than just telling us a lecture, she lets us do activities to show and explain.” Eighth grader Hailey Bauer said. “You are doing something rather than just sitting there and listening.”

Barent said she hopes to aid the “Understanding Science” team in future to create an app for students to document their experiments and work on a companion book for the course.


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