My Summer: C.A.S. Candidate Ariel PuleoBy Jill Anderson
If you ask Ariel Puleo, Ed.M.’11, a candidate for a Certificate in Advanced Studies, for her favorite memory from her summers working for Explo, a creative academic summer program for eighth and ninth graders based in Wellesley, Mass., it’s hard for her to name just one. In fact, she can easily rattle off several, including watching a student with ADHD, who struggled on a camping trip, go from nervous to calm; leading a lesson on molecular gastronomy using liquefied popcorn; and dancing with 600 students and staff dressed as robots in an attempt to break a world record.
“There is a strong focus on teaching creatively in class with hands-on activities,” Puleo says about Explo, pointing out that it has been so easy to skip the beach and go back to work every summer for the past four years.
The mission of the program is to offer students, many of whom don’t do well in traditional instruction, the opportunity to focus on the fun of learning, exchanging ideas, testing out talents, and meeting people. Explo attracts a diverse range of students from 40 states and 50 countries to its three-week program offered twice each summer.
“[The staff] all want to make this fantastic for the students,” Puleo says. “It’s a wonderfully accepting community.”
This summer Puleo worked as a curriculum adviser helping budding Explo teachers hone their lesson plans, content, and management skills. Her work helping teachers devise their lessons begins as early as January. Then once summer arrives, she has only a week to train the teachers – many who come with no formal teaching experience – for the arrival of Explo students.
“We tend to teach the way we are taught,” Puleo says, explaining that all teachers at Explo must build their own creative lessons. Another part of her job is reviewing and improving teacher lesson plans and activities, as well as observing their work in the classroom.
While Puleo works in more traditional counseling positions at public schools during the academic year, as a curriculum adviser at Explo she often combines instructional training and counseling. Puleo explains that she can focus on the social-emotional needs of students at Explo and help that inform teachers as they make decisions about what to do in the classroom. For example, when a teacher has a homesick child, she can provide insight on behavioral issues.
This fall, Puleo — two years after earning her master’s in Prevention Science and Practice — decided to come back to the Ed School and earn a certificate in counseling. As she settles into her studies this year, she says that working at Explo has helped guide her future career. “I’m interested in working in public schools,” she says, “but want to also do counseling and help teachers find creative ways to help students achieve their goals.”