Dan DelDuca: The Idea of Wonder in Lower School Science

Kathy Smith
When children step into Mr. Del Duca’s world, it’s all about participation. “I’m totally into the experience of science. I’m totally into the process. I want the kids to be scientists.”
 
In Mr. Del Duca’s classroom, kids have their jackets at the ready. On any day they may head outside to examine Shipley’s gardens, the status of the hundreds of perennial bulbs they planted for their Journey North project that observes the coming of spring around the world, to measure the lengthening shadows of the trees lining Shipley’s campus, or to catalogue their sightings as they take a bird walk on Bryn Mawr’s campus. “We’re not confined to our classroom,” says Mr. Del Duca, Lower School Science Teacher. “I have a classroom, but it’s not about my classroom.”

When children step into Mr. Del Duca’s world, it’s all about participation. “I’m totally into the experience of science. I’m totally into the process. I want the kids to be scientists.”

Jump Right In

At the Lower School level, science is taught differently than in the Upper School. “As adults, when we want to learn something, we’ll often seek out background information,” says Del Duca. “Chemistry class, for example, begins with lectures and then students graduate to the lab. But younger kids,” Del Duca notes, “they want to jump right in. They want the experience first. Once they get a feel for something, they become open to learning the principles surrounding their experience and they can apply them.”

Pennies on the Water

In third grade, for example, Del Duca challenged students to build tin foil boats to carry as many pennies as possible. Each child was given the same materials with which to work and had to present his or her findings at the end. “It was fascinating to watch because the kids learned very differently. Some kids wanted to complete the process as fast as possible. They made really cool raft designs but the science behind them didn’t really work. Other kids went slowly and applied the science. After the students presented their findings, everyone wanted to try it again.” The second round boats were universally more successful. By allowing the students the opportunity of trial and error, Del Duca provided the space for them to make the scientific connections through their own experience.

Excited About a Worm Bin

While providing the basic structure for his classroom, Del Duca encourages student-driven inquiry and initiative. The fourth grade year, for example, begins with an overnight trip to the Outdoor School in Horsham. “A lot of what they talk about at this camp is soil science. Rather than keeping it at the camp, I wanted to start a garden at school, so we went into the garden here and took some soil samples. The kids found earthworms in the garden and they were so excited. Now I have a worm bin. I added composting and now we study the earthworms and identify how they move and what their structure is. Now, we talk about composting and what that means. This is how it works. They’re given the experience of the outdoor trip, and from that experience, they have interests and questions, so then we follow their questions and leads. It’s very student driven.”

Del Duca has been teaching science for over twenty years but prefers to teach at the lower school level. “Lower School is a perfect spot for me. I’m interested in the children’s experience as they go through. It’s nice in the elementary school because they are so enthusiastic. The idea of wonder and curiosity—it’s an important piece throughout.”

For more photos and detailed descriptions of what goes on inside and outside of Mr. Del Duca’s classroom, visit his blog, http://gatorscience.wordpress.com.
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List of 20 news stories.

  • Ben Ynocencio ’15 is excited for his future, which he hopes to dedicate to his passion for food, the environment, and education by running a self-sufficient farm, restaurant, and education center. “Shipley has instilled in me a drive to achieve my goals and an open mind to adapt and evolve as necessary,” he says of the school which also helped transform him from a shy seventh grader into an outgoing and confident senior.

    Meet Ben Ynocencio ’15

    Ben Ynocencio ’15 is excited for his future, which he hopes to dedicate to his passion for food, the environment, and education by running a self-sufficient farm, restaurant, and education center. “Shipley has instilled in me a drive to achieve my goals and an open mind to adapt and evolve as necessary,” he says of the school which also helped transform him from a shy seventh grader into an outgoing and confident senior.
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  • David Wolfson ’15 recognizes the fact that not all schools have an environment where students feel comfortable participating in Mathletes in the morning and playing varsity basketball in the afternoon, like he did at Shipley. “There is a common feeling between students that allows us to take risks, try new things, and feel comfortable leaving our comfort zones,” David says about Shipley’s warm environment.

    Meet David Wolfson ’15

    David Wolfson ’15 recognizes the fact that not all schools have an environment where students feel comfortable participating in Mathletes in the morning and playing varsity basketball in the afternoon, like he did at Shipley. “There is a common feeling between students that allows us to take risks, try new things, and feel comfortable leaving our comfort zones,” David says about Shipley’s warm environment.
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  • Hunter Vander Zwaag ’15 knows that Shipley has prepared him well for life. “I have grown to love learning, to speak my mind, and to always be curious,” he says of what he learned here. In addition falling in love with Latin and the Classics, Hunter appreciates the fact that he was able to discover his affinity for the theater late in his Shipley career.

    Meet Hunter Vander Zwaag ’15

    Hunter Vander Zwaag ’15 knows that Shipley has prepared him well for life. “I have grown to love learning, to speak my mind, and to always be curious,” he says of what he learned here. In addition falling in love with Latin and the Classics, Hunter appreciates the fact that he was able to discover his affinity for the theater late in his Shipley career.
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  • Madison Tucker ’15 affirms that Shipley has shaped her future ambitions and given her the tools to succeed in college and beyond. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support of Shipley’s community,” she says.

    Meet Madison Tucker ’15

    Madison Tucker ’15 affirms that Shipley has shaped her future ambitions and given her the tools to succeed in college and beyond. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support of Shipley’s community,” she says.
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  • Campbell Taylor ’15 had never excelled athletically until he tried rowing in ninth grade, when he says his musical and theatrical careers also took off at Shipley. Rowing not only provided Campbell with an athletic outlet, but provided him with the tools to excel academically.

    Meet Campbell Taylor ’15

    Campbell Taylor ’15 had never excelled athletically until he tried rowing in ninth grade, when he says his musical and theatrical careers also took off at Shipley. Rowing not only provided Campbell with an athletic outlet, but provided him with the tools to excel academically.
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  • Katie Steiner ’15 may not know exactly what she wants to do when she grows up, however “whatever the future holds,” she says, “Shipley has prepared me for it.” One of the many things that Katie has enjoyed about her Shipley experience is the School’s focus on a balanced education and providing opportunities for students to pursue all of their interests.

    Meet Katie Steiner ’15

    Katie Steiner ’15 may not know exactly what she wants to do when she grows up, however “whatever the future holds,” she says, “Shipley has prepared me for it.” One of the many things that Katie has enjoyed about her Shipley experience is the School’s focus on a balanced education and providing opportunities for students to pursue all of their interests.
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  • As a Shipley Lifer (a student here since at least first grade) Rachel Shapiro ’15 thinks of the Shipley community as her extended family. She says, “Shipley’s environment allows students to have a lot of opportunity to take on significant roles they might not find in many other schools – and the environment is safe – so it's okay to take risks, regardless of the outcome.”

    Meet Rachel Shapiro ’15

    As a Shipley Lifer (a student here since at least first grade) Rachel Shapiro ’15 thinks of the Shipley community as her extended family. She says, “Shipley’s environment allows students to have a lot of opportunity to take on significant roles they might not find in many other schools – and the environment is safe – so it's okay to take risks, regardless of the outcome.”
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  • Spencer Strauss ’15 attended Shipley for 13 years and claims, “I can honestly say I liked going to school everyday.” From exceptional teachers who knew her as an individual and encouraged her to just be herself, to the early and frequent opportunities to take risks and develop confidence, Spencer is grateful for her many memorable Shipley experiences.

    Meet Spencer Strauss ’15

    Spencer Strauss ’15 attended Shipley for 13 years and claims, “I can honestly say I liked going to school everyday.” From exceptional teachers who knew her as an individual and encouraged her to just be herself, to the early and frequent opportunities to take risks and develop confidence, Spencer is grateful for her many memorable Shipley experiences.
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  • Bailey Pollack ’15 enjoyed the academic challenges that his teachers presented in the classroom. They inspired him to seek learning opportunities outside of the classroom—something that was new to him after joining Shipley. This love of learning, he says, “was essential in making me enjoy coming to school every day.”

    Meet Bailey Pollack ’15

    Bailey Pollack ’15 enjoyed the academic challenges that his teachers presented in the classroom. They inspired him to seek learning opportunities outside of the classroom—something that was new to him after joining Shipley. This love of learning, he says, “was essential in making me enjoy coming to school every day.”
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  • Brandon Peltz ’15 was one of the new kids in eighth grade, but he felt accepted immediately by his peers. He made his mark as Shipley’s in-house on-campus DJ, and enjoyed his success in Shipley’s growing STEAM curriculum offerings. And even though he did not play soccer outside of school, he says that coach Thom Schauerman “gave me unexpected chances to prove myself on the soccer field and I did.”

    Meet Brandon Peltz ’15

    Brandon Peltz ’15 was one of the new kids in eighth grade, but he felt accepted immediately by his peers. He made his mark as Shipley’s in-house on-campus DJ, and enjoyed his success in Shipley’s growing STEAM curriculum offerings. And even though he did not play soccer outside of school, he says that coach Thom Schauerman “gave me unexpected chances to prove myself on the soccer field and I did.”
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  • “If Shipley is anything like a microcosm for the rest of my life,” says Emma Scornavacchi ’15, “I’m thrilled to look forward to what’s to come.” This aspiring writer appreciates the many opportunities for getting involved and taking intellectual risks provided to her by Shipley, where she felt challenged and supported by her teachers.

    Meet Emma Scornavacchi ’15

    “If Shipley is anything like a microcosm for the rest of my life,” says Emma Scornavacchi ’15, “I’m thrilled to look forward to what’s to come.” This aspiring writer appreciates the many opportunities for getting involved and taking intellectual risks provided to her by Shipley, where she felt challenged and supported by her teachers.
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  • Pinky Rowe ’15 never considered herself a “math student,” but was encouraged by her college counselor to take an honors calculus class during her senior year. Though she doubted her ability at first, she succeeded with the support of her teacher. “Risk taking at Shipley is always encouraged,” she says, “because every teacher is dedicated to supporting you and watching you grow.”

    Meet Pinky Rowe ’15

    Pinky Rowe ’15 never considered herself a “math student,” but was encouraged by her college counselor to take an honors calculus class during her senior year. Though she doubted her ability at first, she succeeded with the support of her teacher. “Risk taking at Shipley is always encouraged,” she says, “because every teacher is dedicated to supporting you and watching you grow.”
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  • Sophie Pilkington ’15 played lacrosse until her sophomore year, when she decided that she wanted to try crew. “The team was extremely welcoming and helped me transition into a completely different sport with ease,” she says. By joining the time-intensive crew program, Sophie not only learned how to row, but also how to manage her time more efficiently. Shipley’s art program also had a profound impact on Sophie’s life and the direction of her future.

    Meet Sophie Pilkington ’15

    Sophie Pilkington ’15 played lacrosse until her sophomore year, when she decided that she wanted to try crew. “The team was extremely welcoming and helped me transition into a completely different sport with ease,” she says. By joining the time-intensive crew program, Sophie not only learned how to row, but also how to manage her time more efficiently. Shipley’s art program also had a profound impact on Sophie’s life and the direction of her future.
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  • Elijah Peake ’15 is grateful for Shipley’s focus on the individual, which made it possible for him to pursue his ski racing career by learning remotely for five months each school year. Learning alongside students from other schools, he said, showed him how rigorous Shipley’s curriculum is, without being overwhelming. When he returned to Shipley each year, he says, “I was always surrounded by teachers and peers who shared a passion for learning.”

    Meet Elijah Peake ’15

    Elijah Peake ’15 is grateful for Shipley’s focus on the individual, which made it possible for him to pursue his ski racing career by learning remotely for five months each school year. Learning alongside students from other schools, he said, showed him how rigorous Shipley’s curriculum is, without being overwhelming. When he returned to Shipley each year, he says, “I was always surrounded by teachers and peers who shared a passion for learning.”
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  • Eddie McCann ’15 thrived in Shipley’s atmosphere of learning, exploration, and risk-taking. He was able to pursue and discover his many interests while succeeding academically. “Shipley has prepared me well for my life beyond high school, because I learned how to both succeed and recover from failure in a variety of settings, whether on the stage, court, or in the classroom.”

    Meet Eddie McCann ’15

    Eddie McCann ’15 thrived in Shipley’s atmosphere of learning, exploration, and risk-taking. He was able to pursue and discover his many interests while succeeding academically. “Shipley has prepared me well for my life beyond high school, because I learned how to both succeed and recover from failure in a variety of settings, whether on the stage, court, or in the classroom.”
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  • Elizabeth Menkowitz ’15 recognizes the impact that Shipley teachers have had on her life and is thankful to her parents for enrolling her at the School in Pre-Kindergarten. “I have had so many opportunities through Shipley,” she says.

    Meet Elizabeth Menkowitz ’15

    Elizabeth Menkowitz ’15 recognizes the impact that Shipley teachers have had on her life and is thankful to her parents for enrolling her at the School in Pre-Kindergarten. “I have had so many opportunities through Shipley,” she says.
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  • Even though Florence Murabito ’15 had never participated in Student Government, her classmates encouraged her to run for Senior Class President at the end of junior year. She was surprised by the request, but ran anyway (and won). “Shipley encourages us to stretch ourselves to explore new interests and passions,” says Florence, “no matter how late in our Shipley career they appear.”

    Meet Florence Murabito ’15

    Even though Florence Murabito ’15 had never participated in Student Government, her classmates encouraged her to run for Senior Class President at the end of junior year. She was surprised by the request, but ran anyway (and won). “Shipley encourages us to stretch ourselves to explore new interests and passions,” says Florence, “no matter how late in our Shipley career they appear.”
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  • William McKenna ’15 appreciates the fact that Shipley creates an atmosphere where students from all walks of life can not only learn and work together, but also appreciate and celebrate one another’s diverse ways of thinking and being. He also appreciates the many skills he learned in his seven years here, “from writing a paper or finding the derivative of a function, to creating realistic goals for myself and learning how to push my intellectual and personal boundaries.”

    Meet William McKenna ’15

    William McKenna ’15 appreciates the fact that Shipley creates an atmosphere where students from all walks of life can not only learn and work together, but also appreciate and celebrate one another’s diverse ways of thinking and being. He also appreciates the many skills he learned in his seven years here, “from writing a paper or finding the derivative of a function, to creating realistic goals for myself and learning how to push my intellectual and personal boundaries.”
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  • What stands out the most to Anisa Iqbal ’15 about her Shipley experience is the array of choices she had in pursuing activities and interests outside of academics. As a member of the Sprouts horticultural club, Shipley Singers, Glee Club, Yearbook, and Publications Photography staff, she certainly took advantage of the opportunities to participate in what interested her.

    Meet Anisa Iqbal ’15

    What stands out the most to Anisa Iqbal ’15 about her Shipley experience is the array of choices she had in pursuing activities and interests outside of academics. As a member of the Sprouts horticultural club, Shipley Singers, Glee Club, Yearbook, and Publications Photography staff, she certainly took advantage of the opportunities to participate in what interested her.
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  • Deondre Jordan ’15 leapt into the hearts of his fellow classmates well before he did a backflip in front of the whole school during his first speech as All School President, a title he earned after only one year at Shipley. This future neuroscientist says Shipley cemented his love of learning, which he feels will guide him to success throughout his life.

    Meet Deondre Jordan ’15

    Deondre Jordan ’15 leapt into the hearts of his fellow classmates well before he did a backflip in front of the whole school during his first speech as All School President, a title he earned after only one year at Shipley. This future neuroscientist says Shipley cemented his love of learning, which he feels will guide him to success throughout his life.
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Archive

List of 10 news stories.

  • Shipley Changemaker and Service Learning Coordinator, Margie Winters

    Margie Winters: Connecting through Service

    Kathy Smith
    Margie Winters has dedicated much of her career to serving those in need and inspiring others to do the same. In 2018, she became Shipley’s Service Learning Coordinator and has already made an impact on the School’s robust service learning program. “When we reach out to communities, particularly on the margins, we learn a lot about their lives and their priorities. School service,” she says, “helps student do that in a thoughtful and reflective way.” Learn more about Shipley Changemaker Margie Winters and what she’s doing to make a difference at Shipley and in the world.
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  • Anne Smith: Following the Siren’s Song with Learning Adventures in Italy

    Middle School Latin teacher Anne Smith has inspired Shipley students with her passion for the Classics for 25 years. But perhaps more impactful than anything she’s done within her classroom are the 20+ trips to Italy on which she has led hundreds of Shipley students and parents over the years. Learn more about Anne and her Classical Adventures.
    Read More
  • Dan DelDuca: The Idea of Wonder in Lower School Science

    Kathy Smith
    When children step into Mr. Del Duca’s world, it’s all about participation. “I’m totally into the experience of science. I’m totally into the process. I want the kids to be scientists.”
    Read More
  • Josh Berberian: Teaching Students, Not Content

    Kathy Smith
    His early teaching career was shaped by educational innovators. He’s been innovating in his classroom ever since. Learn more about this Upper School math teacher.
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  • Kristin Jaffe: Not What You Think

    Kathy Smith
    Upper School English teacher Kristin Jaffe is known for her rigorous classes, where students engage in intense analysis of complex literature. What most people probably don’t know is that this Bryn Mawr College graduate didn’t start out well academically.
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  • Paul Tierney: The Splendor, the Wonder & the Passing of the Lore

    Kathy Smith
    Paul Tierney retired from General Electric after 34 years of service, ready for something new. Teaching, he thought, seemed like a nice way to move toward a life of travel and retirement. Little did he know, he'd work harder than he ever had.
    Read More
  • Why I Teach: Heather Riley

    Kathy Smith
    Growing up in a Latino neighborhood exposed Heather to the Spanish language early in life. She later went on to study the language formally at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
    Read More
  • Why I Teach: Steve Baris, Chair of Shipley's Art Department

    Kathy Smith
    Steve Baris, Chair of Shipley’s Art Department, had an extraordinary and unconventional upbringing. The experiences cultivated in him a spirit of independence and adventure that sent him fighting fires in the West, hitchhiking throughout Africa, and studying art in Rome before dropping him at the door of 814 Yarrow Street.
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  • Dr. Emily Pickering - Lighting Sparks in Upper School History, English, and Interdisciplinary Studies

    Why I Teach: Dr. Emily Pickering Lights Sparks in History

    Dr. Pickering, Mrs. Pickering to her students—says she teaches because she has always loved being a student. It allows her to read and to learn.
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  • Spotlight on Jay Jennings '91: Middle School Math Teacher and Coach

    Kathy Smith
    Jay Jennings ’91 redefines what it means to be a “lifer” at Shipley. As a Middle School math teacher and coach for the last 21 years, he tries to connect on a personal level with the students he teaches and coaches as a way of inspiring them to learn and strive for excellence.
    Read More
Archive
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.