It’s all fun and games when you’re learning science at Endeavor Charter Academy.
Don’t let James Russell’s humbleness fool you – he’s a fantastic seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher who takes pride in his craft, which he’s refined at Endeavor for the last eight years.
“James brings science learning to life for his students,” said Tom McPherson, interim principal at Endeavor Charter Academy. “Through labs, experiments, and simulations, James ensures that students are truly experiencing their learning in a hands-on way. Former students have returned to thank James for their continued success in science at the high school level."
Russell engages his students by using games in the classroom. He recently made an escape room for his eighth graders that involved puzzles like Morse code, hidden clues, scrambled words, and secret messages that required a decoder to decipher. He infused curriculum in the activity to create this review mechanism.
“My favorite part of using gamification in the classroom is simply the games,” said Russell. “I enjoy games of all kinds myself, and I believe they have multiple benefits.”
He believes that games allow students to fail and try again and that it’s OK if you don’t get it right the first time, because you can try again and get it right the next time. He also allows his students to get back in the game when they play for review, increasing class-wide engagement.
“I’ve had students who were knocked out of a game, get back in, and win! It makes for some really nail-biting endings,” said Russell. “Games also help build social skills. You learn to navigate others’ frustration, as well as your own, in a healthy and safe way. This can help prepare you for life, not just the unit test that is coming in two days.”
Russell has three rules that have constructed his classroom culture: be respectful, be responsible, and be safe.
“My classroom culture is one where we can make mistakes and be honest about them so that we may grow,” said Russell. “I do mean we. I’m not perfect either, my students know this, and we all give each other grace when we need it.”
He builds solid relationships with his students, which he grows by being unapologetically himself. When you’re passionate about teaching like Russell is, students can tell.
Keep up the amazing work, James!