Sitting down with Mrs. Ashley Bulldis, one of BASIS Independent McLean’s chemistry teachers, you understand why students build an interest in and desire to learn more about this discipline in her classroom. Mrs. Bulldis brings passion, expertise, and fun when exploring this key science. She joined us from BASIS Tucson North, the number two ranked high school in the nation. At BASIS Independent McLean, students will take chemistry, physics and biology three days a week each in grades 6, 7 and 8. Below is a Q&A we recently had with Mrs. Bulldis.

BINS MCL Chem 3.jpgHow long have you taught at BASIS Curriculum Schools?

I am now entering my fifth full year as a full-time teacher. I joined BASIS Tucson North as a long term substitute for 7th and 8th grade. I then joined BASIS Curriculum Schools as a full-time teacher the following year teaching 6th and 7th grade. During my BASIS career, I have had the opportunity to add Honors Chemistry and a Forensic Science elective course to my wheel house. Most recently, my husband received a promotion in Herndon and I had the opportunity join this community!

Why do you love Chemistry?

When I was eight years old, I read a book about a forensic criminalist and thought it was cool to use science to solve investigations and problems.  As a result, I studied chemistry, which led me to going to graduate school for Analytical Chemistry at the University of Arizona. After school, I became a battery chemist at Sion Power, which taught me the love of helping others apply chemistry in the real world. I teach chemistry so that students can have a foundation enough to get an entry level science job. My first job in chemistry was using stoichiometry and making solutions, and that is what I teach students.  I love chemistry because students get to solve problems, and this discipline has a real world application; chemistry has a legitimate answer and there is an explanation regardless if we arrived at that answer or not.

Briefly, what are you teaching in chemistry in grades 6, 7 and 8?

Students are learning stoichiometry (balancing and manipulating chemical equations), making solutions, diving into the periodic table, participating in a hands-on lab once a week, and learning to take risks, experiment with failure, and build a foundation in the sciences in preparation for high school. My motto is that learning is not cool if it’s not fun. 

Grade 6: Students are introduced to idea of matter at macro and microscopic level. Lab work is used to reinforce and introduce the new concepts that students are being exposed too.

Grades 7: Students dive deeper into the macro and microscopic matter and begin to apply learnings to real world problems in the laboratory. They review the fundamentals from 6th grade and apply them to more complex learning objectives.

Grade 8: This course is an introduction to honors level content. Students are using ideas about matter and energy use explain and demonstrate how and why changes occur, in and out the lab.

BINS MCL Chem 1.jpgA frequent question we hear from prospective families is can their child catch up if they have not had a prior science classes in grade 6, 7 or 8. What’s your point of view?

In chemistry, we use a spiraling technique where students are learning similar general topics and at different depths depending on grade level.  New related concepts are added in 7th and 8th grade to provide opportunities for deeper critical thinking and problem solving. I teach chemistry from the ground up every grade level. There is review on everything that students need to know. I teach students to ask for help in the classroom, to ask questions, and to come to student-teacher hours. I also will provide students documents and other reading materials to help students catch up as needed, and be super successful.

What larger themes are you teaching students in your class at BASIS Independent McLean?

The biggest thing is that answers are always somewhere hidden, you just need to know how to find them. My job is not to give students the answer, but lead them to the right answers. I want students to learn how to read the periodic table to unlock its secrets; I often tell them it is a giant “cheat sheet”, you just have to know where to look. In my classes, I also ask for a lot of group work to teach teamwork. I like group work as there is a free exchange of ideas and as a scientist you will learn that there is more than one way to solve the problem.


BASIS Independent McLean is a Preschool-Grade 12 private school in Tysons. Join us at an upcoming information event to learn more by clicking here. We are currently accepting applications for the 2018-19 school year.