Dr. Patrice: Former Patriots Cheerleader and Award-Winning Tech Teacher

Hi everyone, Sciene Cheerleader Colleen here! Former New England Patriots Cheerleader Dr. Patrice Farquharson recently received an Innovation in Technology Award from CT NBC and Telemundo for her proposal to help train teachers to integrate tech into their classrooms for very young children.

Congratulations on your award!  What was your reaction like when you got the exciting news that you had been selected?

I was so thrilled that the CT NBC and Telemundo were recognizing the importance of introducing technology and science to children at a young age.

Can you tell us more about your work that earned this award?

Early childhood educators can introduce and foster an interest in technology to young children. To do this, we must first develop technology skills in the teachers. We are ready to provide early childhood teachers with the skills they need to prepare children to move forward. Through online education and coaching we can create a workforce skilled at integrating technology into the classroom. 

The award was two-fold: First, to develop online training to educate early childhood teachers on how to incorporate technology into the classroom from using simple objects such as flashlights to the use of smart board technology. It is also important to increase skills in a field that traditionally consists primarily of women, who historically have had a significant impact on what children learn. Secondly, we received funding to purchase interactive smart boards for use in the classroom.

What was one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?

That is a challenging question! Educating the public about the importance of the work that is being done in early childhood education was a challenge. Adding various forms of technology into preschool classrooms is a relatively easy task. Fully integrating technology into the curriculum is much more complicated. For teachers to integrate technology into the classroom they must be comfortable using technology themselves. They must understand the role technology can play even with such young children. Therefore, we had to come up with a way to assist the teachers to feel comfortable with technology and to consider using a variety of technology tools when planning the curriculum for children.

What do you find most exciting about the field of Child Studies?

Child Studies is a combination of psychology, sociology and child development. The period of development from birth to five years of age is such a rapid pace of development both physically and cognitively. Research shows the importance of this growth period for a child emotionally, intellectually and physically. I find it fascinating to watch this growth happening in children. I also believe I can use my knowledge and resources to make a difference in the lives of the children with whom I work. 

Why did you decide to audition to be a Patriots cheerleader? A friend of mine, with whom I had cheered at the University of Connecticut, was living in the Boston area. She encouraged me to try out. I had been cheering and dancing since I was 10 years old. So, I decided to take a chance and audition!

What qualities that help make a great cheerleader do you think also make a great scientist?

I believeworking as a team and learning new routines all the time are key. You need to be able to visualize the whole picture and then break down the routine first into single steps and then into a combination of steps to create a whole piece. Along the way you need to keep trying out new steps or routines until you find something that works. It reminds me of a science project! As with any presentation, you need the ability to communicate, connect with and engage the enthusiasm of a large crowd. You work as a team and are discovering new outcomes all the time. 

How about advice for aspiring professional cheerleaders or aspiring Ph.D. students?

It really is much the same advice. I had to take small steps to get to each degree. You just need to keep practicing along the way to reach the final performance! I do the same thing in my work. I take every opportunity to write an abstract for a conference presentation or apply for a grant. It is essential to keep aiming higher and higher! I use the same skills I needed to be a cheerleader for the Patriots!

Images are courtesy of Dr. Patrice Farquharson