CURRENT TITLE: Educational Consultant/Resident Scientist
AREA OF EXPERTISE: Science Education
EDUCATION: I got my BS in Geosciences, then my Masters in Geosciences took 2 years. However, I’ve worked with education-based summer sailing programs seasonally for the last 8 years, so I got some education experience in there. I also took every geology experience possible, including a paleontology field course in New Mexico, the International Volcanological Field School in Alaska, a mapping field camp in the Mojave desert, and a 2-week geology-based trip to Iceland.
What’s your job like?
I am currently an educational consultant that gets contracted out to the local school district. This means that I spend 5 days a week in a local, low-income, public elementary school. I get to work with every student in the school once a week, and I also spend time working with the teachers to help them build their capacity and confidence to teach science.
What’s a typical day like?
Even though I don’t technically work for the school, I love the community of the school and so I’ve immersed myself in it completely. Anything that the rest of the staff is required to do, I do as well. This means that my day always starts with arrivals at 7:45. I stand in the halls and make sure students get to class on time, without running, etc. As soon as announcements are over at 8:30, I take a group of 4 students during the 3rd grade Personalized Learning Time (PLT). These 4 students are succeeding in all aspects of school, so they don’t need additional instruction in any particular subject. They get to meet with me in the library and we read science articles for kids. We read them together and talk about the main idea, the science mentioned, and then we do various activities related to the article. We might make up our own experiment based on the results of the article, or we might make a poster to hang in the hallway that communicates the information to the other students.
After that, I spend my day meeting with a different class for 30-45 minutes. I co-teach the science standards with the classroom teachers, and we always try to do something engaging and hands-on that might be more difficult/impossible for a classroom teacher to manage alone.
I visit classes all day long with some planning times thrown in there so that I can plan the lessons with teachers, and then I help with dismissal at the end of the day.
For me, getting to know the students and learning about their interests is the most fun! Especially when they are similar to my own interests. For example, last week we covered the rock cycle with the 2nd grade, and then we took the students outside so they could be geologists. They got to roam around the school grounds and collect rocks, then we would look at them together and figure out what type of rock it is (though in our area, 98% of the rock is limestone). Every time I would tell a student that they found some limestone, they would get so excited, and I love seeing them get excited about science!
The most challenging thing is time!! Standardized testing means that Math and ELA generally get prioritized over science, and there’s not enough time in the day to squeeze in everything, so that means I usually only get 30 minutes, and sometimes less, with any given class. It’s pretty hard to come up with an activity that is engaging, hands-on, interactive, and hits all of the knowledge/standards that students need to know in only 30 minutes! Those 30 minutes have to include students entering the classroom and settling down, getting out the proper materials, any necessary lab preparation, clean up, and the students being 100% ready to go to the next thing by the end. I just always wish I had more time!
The other thing that is most challenging to me has been the shift from geology to education. There are some days that I miss being able to do my own research, go out in the field, focus on one thing in particular and not have to worry about covering 10 different topics in a short amount of time.
What’s your advice to students?
Enjoy school while you are there. It doesn’t last forever and there will be a day that you will miss it. And take every opportunity possible, because, like me, you might not end up in the field you imagined yourself in, and it’s all those little opportunities I took along the way that prepared me for what I’m doing now.