As a scientist, my primary job is to do research and research findings are traditionally shared through professional conferences and scientific publishing. However, I love sharing my science with a broader audience and I have been committed to doing so for years. Please check out what I've done to share my own research and more importantly, what I've done to give others their own research experiences.
Youngzine: Yougnzine is an online news magazine for children, with a broad and large readership that I have been collaborating with for years. Who are scientists and what do they actually do? My primary goal with Youngzine is to help students answer this question. I developed the "Meet-the-Expert" series, where I recruit scientists to publish short articles about why the became a scientist, what their field of research is generally, and what specifically they do on a day to day basis. Please click the button below to check it out!
Turtle Camp Research and Education in Ecology (TREE) Program: The TREE Program is a two-week summer camp that immerses students in active ecology and evolution research at our field site on the Mississippi River, run out of Fred Janzen's lab at Iowa State. For 4 years I was intensely involved in this program by organizing logistics and/or leading research teams of several students. In this role, I facilitated authentic student research project. Students develop scientific questions based on their own curiosities and observations, and collaboratively design and implement research plans that appropriately answer these questions. For example, we regularly survey a remnant sand prairie for herps each morning. One student asked why we did it only in the morning, and we responded, because that’s when the animals are out. Being a good student, the obvious follow up question was, “Why?”. That question generated a two-week project examining temporal microhabitat use change which showed that temperature was the primary determinant of these observed activity patterns and habitat use. Students conclude the camp with a poster presentation to their peers and the public at the local US Fish and Wildlife office. This educational model requires students to be grounded in critical biological concepts, but allows students to express their own creativity and provides experience in all phases of the scientific process. Aspects of this model are readily modified for undergraduates courses.
National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellowship: The GK-12 Program pairs graduate students in STEM fields with local teachers in grades K-12. While at Iowa State, I participated in the program for two school years, working with a different 7th grade life science teacher and their classes in Des Moines, IA. Each week, I visited the classroom and taught my own lessons on diverse topics. This challenging experience shaped my perspective on how to teach effectively. These classrooms had both engaged and apathetic students with a wide range of abilities. Rarely did my prepared activities succeed at first, and I was continuously altering or completely redesigning activities between first and last periods of the day; teaching is a process of constant refinement and requires listening to, and understanding students. Thus, this teaching environment allowed me to experiment with different teaching techniques. Ultimately, the most consistently successful activities involved topics relevant to these student’s lives. Additionally, problem-based learning methods seemed to consistently engage students and help them work through, understand and retain complex concepts, while encouraging critical thinking. One such example was a squirrel optimal foraging project we set up in the park right next to the school. Students addressed how squirrels assess risks while foraging. To do this we created seed trays (food) and measured how thoroughly squirrels searched the trays for food. Trays farther from trees were less thoroughly explored than those nearby trees. This project taught students not only about the biological concepts of optimal foraging, but required careful measurements, data collection, data analysis/visualization and interpretation of results.
National Science Foundation STEM-IQ program: As a part of my NSF Postdoc Fellowship, I am involved in an initiative to train teachers how to properly implement and advise students in the completion of independent science fair projects. I was involved in a week long workshop with teachers this summer and am getting to work with helping these teachers in their classrooms this fall. I firmly believe that doing science is the best way to learn science, so I am very excited to be involved with this Project.