Learning in the Making: Live! invites guest hosts of color on as equal and valued partners and collaborators, so that they can tell their stories and showcase the amazing things they are making and doing! This is because youth of color deserve to see engineers, scientists, mathematicians, artists, creators, and makers of color! In this series, we interview our guest hosts to learn a little bit more about them.
Maker Ed chats with Cassia Izaac, an Early Childhood STEAM Specialist at the University of California, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science and guest host on Learning in the Making: Shapes in Nature Parts 1 and 2. Listen to latin rhythms by Brazilian composer Quincas Moreira while reading Cassia’s journey below.
Maker Ed: Tell us a bit more about yourself
Cassia: I am an Early Childhood STEAM Specialist at the University of California, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. I strive to integrate social emotional, culturally relevant pedagogies and language arts in STEAM. The more integration is embedded in the design, the more Equity is elevated within learning experiences. Almost 30 years ago, I left my native country Brazil where I got a BA in Education. My passion for early childhood education happened in the United States a little before I had my daughter, Victoria. Thanks to her, I continued my studies and this time in Child Development. I’m a proud mamãe (or momma) of Victoria, a 22 year old Political Scientist who’s fired up working hard towards much needed changes in this country. My hope is that she’ll never need to leave her country of birth. Having the opportunity to tell my story makes me feel like I’m sharing the story of many immigrant mothers. We came to this country to contribute and to belong. We want to learn and work together.
Maker Ed: What excites you most about your work?
Cassia: I’m grateful that learning how children learn has transformed me into a lifelong learner. The field that you choose to work in will definitely shape you.
Maker Ed: Why do you make?
Cassia: I feel making is a part of life that gives space to creativity. I learned it from my mother. I grew up with five brothers and one sister. My mom never rushed into showing us the way. She felt comfortable with our creative ways which can be messy. We didn’t have many toys, we made our toys with very little resources. Every time the tropical rain came down hard, a section of our house would flood. My six siblings and I would ask the neighbors for mops to help our mom. We would go outside after the rain with pieces of paper that she would give us to play in the current flowing through the storm drain. My older brothers would make paper boats. Being much younger than them, I would explore placing paper on the water, observing to see if it would float. After many trials of crumbling it up, I would figure out how to shape the paper in a way to keep it afloat while my brothers were racing their paper boats. Those childhood moments of trial and error at my own pace convinced me that we, as educators, need to give more time for open exploration. How should we nurture those insightful moments before jumping into focused exploration? That’s the question that can be transformative as we reflect on best practices.
Maker Ed: What dreams do you have for young people?
Cassia: I have many dreams for the youth and I think they will sound more like advice so please take it as what works for you. I will start with a question: How will you navigate a system that hasn’t been designed for you to achieve your full potential?
May you thank the challenges you face and gear them towards your strengths. Trust that with practice you will overcome.
May you reflect and keep your inner child alive. Your inner child will always lead you to achieve your big dreams.
May you connect with your spiritual self unwrapping the gifts received to be shared with others.
May you eat healthy foods, drink enough water, and get enough sleep.
May your focus be working towards your areas of improvement but start with what comes naturally to you.
May your friends be the ones that offer you positive criticism.
May you pay attention to patterns of behavior and always question.
May you embrace your uniqueness and love yourself. There’s no time to be somebody else.
Life is a short adventure. Be curious and have a fun ride reaching the stars.
Maker Ed: If you could share one word of advice to give to other educators, what would it be?
Cassia: Let’s remind ourselves to observe our students closely, to listen to them more, to pause, to ask questions that will encourage them to think further and deeper, to discover together. By genuinely caring to find out where our students are in their learning process, we can truly connect and empower them.
Maker Ed: Are there other makers and/or educators in your community whose work you’d like to promote?
Cassia: I would like to honor a young beautiful inspirational educator that I got to know when she was experiencing tough battles while in college. It was clear early on that she would be a leader in her field of Mathematics education. Her name is Dora Medrano Ramos. She’s going to become a mother in a country that her mother, Rosario, dreamed of. Dear Rosario, I’m so happy that your dreams (as another immigrant mother) are coming true. Feliz futuro para toda familia americana.