The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin
The Times 

Lifelong Learner Brings Inspiration to the Classroom

Kindergarten teacher Pam Nolan-Beasley considers week-long science immersion experience her 'Disneyland'


August 10, 2017

Photo Courtesy of Pam Nolan-Beasley

Beasley examines a sturgeon at Northwest National Lab.

WAITSBURG – It may not be back-to-school time for Waitsburg students yet, but kindergarten teacher Pam Nolan-Nolan-Beasley spent last week in "school," honing her skills along with other select teachers from across the state. She spent the week at the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Richland, Wash. as part of the STEM-IT Now Project, which aims to strengthen the content knowledge and skills of selected expert teachers who are part of the SE LASER (Leadership Alliance for Science Education Reform) Alliance.

Nolan-Beasley undoubtedly qualifies as an "expert teacher." She is not only a member of the SE LASER Alliance but is also a Science Fellow for OSPI/ESD from Waitsburg. Not to mention the fact that she was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2014 and was one of ten national semi-finalists to receive the Shell Science Teaching Award in 2015.

Nolan-Beasley said this was her first year to participate with scientists at PNNL where she and other expert teachers engaged in an adult-oriented, real-life, problem-based immersion experience in partnership with scientists and engineers.

Nolan-Beasley was excited to learn under Megan Nims who works with PNNL in a project that studies the transport and travel of salmon across dams. Nims' project involved a team of scientists who tested a "salmon cannon" for use with the Corps of Engineers Dams, and is "awesome!" Nolan-Beasley said. (A video of the cannon can be found on YouTube under 'Salmon cannon gives fish a boost over dams' by

Nolan-Beasley said Nims used the anatomy of a sturgeon and salmon to show how their physical makeup helps them move through water. The student-teachers also learned about force and motion, Einstein's theories, and took a field trip to the PNNL fish lab, all in order to have a stronger background when teaching the Force and Motion science unit to their students.

"What really struck me was how science requires teams of people, from many different job areas, to work together. The fish lab needs plumbers and electricians, in addition to people who develop 3D fish prototypes to test through the cannon. They have people who do the tests, work with the data from the tests . . . the list goes on and on. I can't wait to share this with our students in Waitsburg!" Nolan-Beasley said.

"When we went on our field trip to LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) in Richland, they even have people with the job of baling tumbleweeds. Science is everywhere!" she added.

Photo Courtesy of Pam Nolan-Beasley

Pam Nolan-Beasley (third from left), with fellow select kindergarten teachers and Pacific Northwest National Lab scientist Megan Nims (third from right).

Throughout the week, K-5 teachers worked with their grade level KIT materials to align with national standards and to add enhancements. The teachers will connect throughout the year to follow up with their grade level teams and they share information with teachers across the country on the STEM-It website.

In addition to personally imparting her newfound knowledge, Nolan-Beasley plans to utilize technology to allow her kindergarten students to share first-hand in some of her experience.

"I'm also looking forward to connecting my class with Megan, and other entities of PNNL, through social media, video calls, virtual lessons, visits to the classroom, etc." Nolan-Beasley said.

"I could go on about this all night! Until this week, I was unaware we had cutting-edge science experiments going on in our own backyard – discoveries that aren't happening anywhere else. We have a wealth of resources here for students in our area. This week was like my summer trip to Disneyland!" Nolan-Beasley said.

Enthusiasm like that ought to inspire any student.


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