Jane Wilson ’22 interviewed Elementary School Science Teacher Laurent Carsana, who cultivates a love for science in his young students by empowering them, encouraging them to slow down and think deeply about what they’re doing, and building a learning environment defined by honesty and trust.
Have you exclusively taught science in the Elementary School?
In the beginning, I was mainly a history and Italian teacher, and I also taught some drama. I was doing many things. We were just opening the Elementary School, so we faced a mountain. We were supposed to be situated in Ca’ Gioia (where the English Department is based now), but we received so many applications that we had to move to Hadsall.
What else are you involved with at the School?
I’ve done different things. I loved it when I was running Middle School Service Learning projects with Terre des Hommes. We invited National Geographic photographers as part of some of our projects. I also liked going on Academic Travel trips to Valencia in Spain, where I got to know the kids I was teaching. Lovely.
What was your pathway to TASIS?
My family has a business. They work in the plastic industry building toys. My dad was the one building the Barbie Dream Houses, Hot Wheels, etc. So I grew up tinkering with these toys at home. THAT’s why I do this job.
I thought I wanted to change the world when I was your age, so after leaving school, I studied journalism. I did it and was really proud. I published a book when I was very young because I was really passionate about something that was shocking the world: terrorism. I analyzed the Twin Towers and other terrorist attacks.
Then I slowly started teaching at the university level. I was teaching sociology of communication. I was offered a job in the US but didn’t go. I got married, and then I tried teaching kids. I worked as a Montessori teacher and realized how much I liked teaching young minds. And the longer I teach science, the younger my students become. Soon I will be teaching 2-year-old kids…in the womb!
The pleasure of working with young minds is that WOW moment. The “AHA” moment is super rewarding. With older kids, it’s difficult to get them really excited. At age six or seven, the world is a wonderful place, and my job is to show them how wonderful it is.
How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
Really simple. I always say to parents during conferences that I try to give the kids responsibility without imposing it. Now, in order to do that, you need the space and the equipment. To me, the best test is represented by the students challenging themselves and not being sad because of an A, B, C, D, or F grade. It’s the beauty of being capable of judging YOURSELF, and saying, “Wow I did this, but I can do it better tomorrow…” Honestly, this is really important.
Another important thing: I talk about everything with my students. Everything. I never lie. They ask me about cancer, death, beauty, and love. I NEED to answer them. I think I have a good way of communicating with the kids. If they trust me, I can unveil the world.
What do you think is the best way to inspire an interest in science for children?
What I really try with my students is to EMPOWER them. I always tell them that knowledge is power and it grows like a flower. It means that the more you know, the more confident you can feel as you make your decisions, and this allows great freedom.
I understand that the ES Science Lab has undergone some renovations recently. What improvements have been made to help your program?
A lot. I’m super happy that I still have my budget and access to great equipment. Most classrooms are white, naked, not inspiring…whereas my lab contains mult-istation islands where the kids all work together and color. My vision has always been supported at TASIS.
Why is STEM education so important for kids?
You need to have a scientific approach and explanation for everything. You don't come into my lab to play—you come into my lab to have fun as you explore. But as I always say, you don’t learn by doing. You learn by THINKING about what you’re doing. When the kids come into the lab, I try to slow them down. They need to have time to chew on the concept—to either like the concept or not. You have a right as a child to raise your hand and say, “I DON’T like this.” YES, YES, go ahead…don't like it!