What, exactly, am I doing here?

Greetings! I’m a doctoral student in the Teaching, Curriculum and Change program at Warner. I’m taking a course with the Get Real! Science teacher cohort and working as part of the GRS research team. I’ve spent this week trying to figure out my role in this community, not succeeding, and trying to be okay with that. I’ve had a lot of great experiences during this week with East students, teachers, and staff so I’m relying on the warm-and-fuzzies from those interactions to keep me buoyed while I figure things out.

Warm-and-Fuzzy #1 – Watching the Ultimate Rock Guy do this:

It’s wonderful being around people talking/doing what they’re passionate about

Warm-and-Fuzzy #2 – being laughed at by a student. We took the first group of students on the trip to the gorge this morning (more about that anchoring experience here). I was there as a researcher, but was able to have enough interactions with the students that I could be laughed at (while laughing at myself). I’ve found that my best interactions with students happen when I’m not taking myself too seriously, so this is a good sign!

Thoughts on the nature of science and the science community

I think a lot about diversity and STEM; it’s what I do in my full-time work and I just spent five days discussing those topics at a conference. I’ve done some reading on the nature of groups and have learned that a) members of a community or group define who belongs to that group and b) since insiders define who is in a group they are naturally resistant to outsiders trying to diversify the group. The work I do makes it very easy to assume that this behavior is always bad and unfair. I consider myself to be comically jaded when it comes to being treated like an outsider by the engineering community. However, I advocate for kids, which makes it really hard to let it go when an adult insiders appear to go out of their way to make those kids know they are outsiders. It was a relief to read about how Settlage and Southerland (2012) describe the importance of a science culture/community and what the nature of science (NOS) is to that community. “To study science without understanding the nature of science is to become familiar with the surface features of that culture but to never fully understand, be comfortable with, or be able to work within the culture of science” (p. 33).

Insider status isn’t gained by secret handshakes or by being born into certain demographics. Outsiders become scientists through understanding the nature of science, which will allow them to work within the scientific community. This isn’t an easy and linear process. There isn’t complete agreement as to what NOS is, and what is agreed upon can change. There are still insiders that think attending certain schools or speaking a certain way precludes insider status. However, as science educators, we can provide opportunities for outsiders to interact with science at a deeper level. We can collaborate, advocate, and challenge biases. The task for me, moving forward, is to be thoughtful and deliberate in the types of opportunities I make available in my programs.

Settlage, J. & Southerland, S. (2012). Teaching science to every child: Using culture as a starting point. New York, NY: Routledge.