In those days, my favorite part of being a teacher was my chalkboard. I loved writing on it and showing the kids in the neighborhood how to solve an equation, spell a word (which I have difficulty doing now in my middle age). I would write the class homework assignments up in the right hand corner. Each time I went to CVS with my parents, I didn't ask for a scrumptious candy bar like most kids. I asked for a box of chalk. I graded the papers of my playmates and loved every moment of it. If you asked my mom what she thought I would grow up to be, she would tell you, "Teacher!" There was no question in her mind about my future career. I especially loved the youngest children that came to play. I just loved to take care of them. Even at an early age, I was like a magnet attracting children to me everywhere I went! I knew working with children was my destiny and no one could have been more excited to embark on my journey than I was.
That journey began at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts where I received my Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education. I loved it, loved it, loved it! Not content to stop there, I enrolled then completed the Master's program in School Administration at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. With those degrees under my belt, I decided to start a small childcare center in my home. I started with just 6 children, but that number steadily grew and before I knew it, I had a full staff and was caring for 50 children per day, still in my home. It was obvious that I needed a bigger location to accommodate that growth. I opened a new center and enrollment grew immediately to 120 children per day. I was caring for the children of over 200 families per week.
My new facility had an ocean theme. Inside, children played in a life sized lobster boat, submarine, lighthouse and keeper’s cottage. Fish tanks full of beautiful fish were scattered throughout the center and colorful sea life hung from the ceiling. This colorful and interesting environment inspired a love of learning in my students. Music was playing and children were engaged in hands on learning activities. Everywhere I looked, children were painting, they were gluing, they were coloring, but most importantly, they were learning and having fun doing it.
I saw how well our students were doing. Kindergarten teachers in the area loved having our former students in the classes. They knew that our children knew their letters, numbers, shapes and colors. Our students could write their names, they could sound out their letters and they were pre-reading. I found our methods to be effective and thought that we should offer this type of program to other children. That's when The Adventures of Scuba Jack began.
I enlisted the help of Melanie Giacalone, a former elementary school teacher to bring my ideas and vision to the next level. Melanie began working with me to create new projects and worksheets, learning activity books and episode ideas for our DVDs. We hired Jeremy Marks, an artist from New Zealand to create the artwork for our learning activity books, worksheets and projects.
The lead actor in the Adventures of Scuba Jack, Derrick Topp, created the lobster boat, submarine, lighthouse and keeper’s cottage that were featured in my childcare center. While installing the pieces he would begin an impromptu puppet show for the children or bring in his dog and have her perform. The kids just flocked to him. One day I asked him if he would be interested in being Scuba Jack and he enthusiastically responded, "Yes!" He has proven to be a dynamic, entertaining addition to the project, engaging children all over the country in learning.
Word began to spread about our DVDs and Learning Activity Books and our popularity grew. To help the word about Scuba Jack spread further, we created the mom blog Miss Beth’s Journal, a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account and many, many You Tube Videos. We now have some public pre-schools using our learning activities and sending them to us for Scuba Jack to correct. Our products in the waiting rooms of pediatricians, we are in countless restaurants on place mats, and Kids Wish Network gives our products to children everywhere. Our products can also be found in stores throughout the United States.
We believe in a hands-on approach to learning, or learning by doing. How many times have you heard someone say “I learn better by doing it,” or “Let me try it and I’m sure I’ll understand.”? They are telling you that they learn better by being able to put their hands on what you are showing them and doing it themselves. This is what we mean when we refer hands-on learning. Children are no different from adults. They learn better and retain what they learned when they can push their sleeves up and get their hands on what they are trying to learn.
Piaget, a major educational theorist, stressed the importance of learning by doing. "A learning environment should be rich in personal experiences. Involvement," he states, "is the key to intellectual development." Hands-on learning has been shown to assist the development of language and reading skills and can improve students’ attitude for learning.
When hands-on learning is used, the information has a better chance of being stored in the memory for useful retrieval. This means that students participating in hands-on learning programs will have better recall of the material presented to them. Students who have difficulty in learning due to behavioral issues or ESL (English as a Second Language), are found to be on task more often because they are taking part in the learning process and not just spectators. Hands-on teaching makes learning fun and engaging! If students are motivated they learn more.
To help motivate children even more, we use nature as the learning catalyst in our DVDs and the supporting activities. Children are fascinated by the world around them. Because of this fascination, our DVDs grab their attention and engage them in the learning process. Through our DVDs, we teach math, science, history, reading and even beginning Spanish. All of the concepts and skills needed for a successful transition from the preschool years to Kindergarten are introduced and reinforced. Preschoolers will learn to identify the letters of the alphabet, numbers, shapes and colors. Our projects and learning activities encourage creativity and assist with the development of fine motor skills. As a result, children who use The Adventures of Scuba Jack learning system will be better prepared for Kindergarten and they will have fun getting there!