Konika Ray is in her 15th year teaching Lower School science at The Hamlin School. She has a diverse background growing up in Beaufort, SC, Buffalo, NY, Metairie, LA, and Herndon, VA. She attended seven different schools from Kindergarten through High School. She earned her BA from Virginia Tech in Wildlife Science with a minor in Biology, later receiving her Master’s degree from University of San Francisco.
What do you love about teaching science at Hamlin?
Science is so hands-on and fun! As Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus says we get to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” Our students absolutely love it and their passion for science inspires me to keep learning and innovating our program. Science is constantly evolving so the content is always changing which makes it exciting.
As a scientist, Hamlin mother, and teacher, how do you talk about COVID-19 with younger students?
I focus on silver linings and having gratitude that we are safe and healthy. I also emphasize ways we can reduce our risk of exposure and strengthen our immune systems. The pandemic is a powerful teachable moment that has the potential to deeply engrain healthy nutrition and hygiene habits from this point forward.
Given your life background, tell us your perspective on Hamlin’s upcoming Adventure Year.
I went to several different schools when I was younger. I have also had seven different office / classroom spaces at Hamlin, including the middle school science labs, movement lab, and the learning center. One could say I’m an expert at moving and that I embrace change and uncertainty. I taught at NatureBridge before Hamlin and I love being outdoors so I am so excited about the proximity to Crissy Fields and the Presidio Native Plant Nursery. I’m hoping to tap into opportunities for ongoing habitat restoration projects in the Presidio.
Tell us about your environmental activism work at Hamlin.
Ms. Gonzalez and I like to celebrate Earth Day every day! This year, we especially enjoyed teaching our students about climate change and participating in the march in our neighborhood. For my project year, I developed a K-4 Environmental Stewardship scope and sequence including fun field trips all over the Bay Area. I’m also really passionate about solar energy and other renewable energy sources. I always tell our students, “Ms. Ray loves sun rays!” I built a solar oven and when we have hot weather in the fall, I love using the solar oven to bake cookies with our students.
Environmentally speaking, what makes you optimistic about the future?
The coronavirus pandemic has given us a glimpse that our collective actions can have a dramatically positive impact on our planet. For the first time on record, the U.S. is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal. The global air quality has never been better. Most importantly, we have become conscious consumers focused on buying locally and supporting small local businesses. So many folks have taken an interest in gardening that Bay area plant nurseries recorded a 300% increase in sales. I am hopeful that the silver lining of this challenging time is that we see the profound implications of being conscious of our footprints and we step mindfully moving forward.