You might look at this picture and see a pile of dirt in the yard. Cool, I guess. Actually, this “pile of dirt” was the centerpiece in which my daughters began to use components of scientific and engineering practices.

I relate my life to science all of the time. While going about my day, it will inevitably happen. An everyday occurrence will make me stop and think, “Wow, that reminds me of this theory,” or “Ha, that formula makes sense now.” I don’t do this on purpose, it just happens. While starting the Spring Semester at U of R, I have now noticed subjects we talk about in class happening at home.

In class, we have been discussing and reading about Scientific and Engineering Practices, and recently, we have been focusing on asking questions and defining problems. Well, living with an inquisitive 5 year old, and a curious 2 year old, I see this happening all of the time. In fact, it happened yesterday.

While outside, Mia, my oldest, called to me in a bit of a panic.

“Mommy, what is that turtle doing? I think it is dying.”

Now, anyone who has experienced/witnessed birth, might understand where she was coming from. The turtle had dug a hole in our front yard, and was laying eggs. Something Mia never seen, so it concerned her. I explained to her what was happening, and tried to answer her questions as best as I could. She really focused on why the turtle put the eggs in the hole. I explained it was to keep the eggs safe. But to her, that hole wasn’t safe. After suggesting some creative ideas, she asked if she could put a fence around the hole to help protect them. She had asked questions from observations, defined what she considered a problem, and wanted to fix it.

The whole time Mia and I were talking, Emmie, my youngest remained quiet. What happened next reminded me of the Kepler and Brahe example used in Southerland’s Teaching science to every child: Using culture as a starting point. The example I am referring to, is when the two scientist used the same set of data, but interpreted it in two very different ways.

Emmie peered up at me with a disgusted look on her face and said “Mommy, I don’t like eggs. Emmie doesn’t eat
turtle poop anymore.”


Settlage, J. & Southerland S. (2011). Teaching science to every child: Using culture as a starting point.
New York, NY: Routledge.

Words From a Stranger

It is funny the conversations you find yourself in sometimes.

From a young age, it was instilled in me to listen. Over and over, I would hear, if you would just quiet down, you might learn something. Think before you speak. Take in the situation around you, reflect on what you have to say, and then say it. This was tough for me to learn. I was a talker, with no filter. But this changed with time, and lessons, and mistakes turned into lessons. I have learned that listening, and fighting back the urge to speak, has allowed me to gain more knowledge, and insight, that I could have possibly missed out on.

So why am I blogging about this?

Well while I was waitressing on Memorial Day, I had 3 people come in that I hadn’t seen before. Through small talk, I found out they were not from the area, but we would be seeing more of them because they were in town for business. It was a slow night, so I was able to engage them in more conversation, than I usually do with customers. I asked where they were from and what type of business. They were from Texas and of course the business was “confidential”. All I was allowed to know was that it had to do with Clean Energy, and “my generation” would really appreciate what they are trying to do.

Now this is when it happened. The urge started coming. I had a pretty good idea what he was here for, and it was controversial. But, I kept quiet. He had passion in him, and that is something I respect. I appreciate passion.

He had some interesting things to say. His wife, who sat beside him, was from Central America where the pollution was so bad when she was a child, she had constant bronchitis. It wasn’t until she went to the jungle with her mom that it disappeared.

He went on to talk about how his generation didn’t think about long term effects on the planet, and for that he apologized. He expressed how my generation are the ones who need to save this world. He stated that he believes in us, and from the look in his eyes, I believed him. To him, we have all of the tools right in front of us, there was just one key thing we needed to do.

Now, so far I have been paraphrasing, but what he said next is verbatim “you just need to unite through science. It is there. A greater understanding of science will save this world.” I smiled because I agreed. I then finally decided it was my turn to add to the conversation. I told him that one of the reasons I decided to go in to teaching was because I want the upcoming generations to understand how important science is. We need them to comprehend science.

I also let him know that Dr. Gary Lash, the shale king, would have disowned me as a student, if I didn’t know that “clean energy” most likely meant fracking. I told him I knew he was most likely up here because of the Marcellus Shale, but I understood what confidential meant, and he didn’t have to tell me about his business. He had a look of surprise, and then laughed because I hit the nail on the head. Before he left, he said he looked forward to more discussions.

I thought about this conversation on my way home. What he was saying, related to everything we discussed in class, especially the importance of science literacy. It is random conversations like the one I had last night, which remind me that I am right where I belong, in the career path I have chosen. When I get that feeling of excitement, or any strong emotion towards a topic, I know the choice I made is the right one. I am excited to be a teacher of science, and forever a learner!

On a different note:

We got to go to Corbett’s Glen this weekend

This picture relates to something Jillian mentioned in my previous post.  My 2 year old doing her own science inquiry (even though she is not expressing it vocally)

Life as a Scientist: From Fascination to Understanding

There was never a specific moment in which I was called to science. I feel it has always been with me since birth, and possibly conception. I want to believe it is in everybody. I was just fortunate enough to be surrounded by the right people, situations, and environments that kept the passion for science very alive within me.

There is a story my grandma tells about my sister and I. She was about 3, and I was 4. My sister had turned to my mother, and asked the common question on why grass was green. I quickly told her to not ask our mom. She would lie and say it was God who made the grass green. I then informed her it was due to chlorophyll and photosynthesis.

I have faith, and I consider myself spiritual, but from a young age I naturally questioned everything. That is probably why my mother quickly took me out of Catholic school after a requested meeting in Pre-K. This was caused by my inability to stop challenging the teacher during a lesson on Creation when she brushed off my question about evolution. At that time, I had no idea it was a hot topic.

As small children, my sisters and I lived with my mom, grandma, and aunt. All of whom were nurses. This inevitably made biology my first science. I would look through all of their nursing books, occasionally attend nursing classes when schedules conflicted and there were no babysitters, and I would help them study.

Throughout school, I excelled in my science classes. In 4th grade, I was the only one in my district who received a perfect score on the NYS Science Exam. I continued to do well throughout middle school and high school. I had the GREATEST science teachers. They were all so different, but had such a love for what they taught. It made learning fun and exciting.

At 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do, or what I could do in the field of science. Earth Science was my favorite class, so I decided to pursue a major in Geology. I loved it! The courses, the faculty, the classmates, the research, the internships, the field study in South Dakota’s Black Hills. I had found my niche in life.

I was particularly drawn to hydrogeology and geomorphology. This started in an introductory course called Thirsty Planet, which addressed water issues of the world. Desalination, drought, countries having water wars, villages being forced to relocate so the direction of a river could be manipulated; my eyes were forced open. We even met a woman from India, whose whole day was focused around getting water to her family. Water unfit for bathing, let alone consumption. From that moment on, the professor who taught that content became my mentor. My internships became water intensive. He played a big role in me learning how to write as a scientist, think as a scientist, and truly understand the importance of science in the world in which we live.

When science is in my life, whether I’m working on a project, or answering questions on a fossil someone found, I always have a fulfilling sense of purpose. However, two big accomplishments stand out. The first was in an annual water report for Chautauqua County’s Waternet. Fellow interns and I compiled data for analysis from wells and creeks. My accomplishment occurred when I went from being a part of the “et al” to being the first name listed as the author. Another transpired when I was the first student to receive the Florence Eikenburg Scholarship. This scholarship honors a wonderful woman, who was not allowed to major in science due to a lack of women in the field. She didn’t let that stop her, and found other ways to follow her passion.

I took a small hiatus from science when I found out I was pregnant. Science was put on the back burner, but it wasn’t completely gone. When my oldest was 1, she was able to let people know the “rock” she carried around was actually a crinoid fossil.

Now the mother of two beautiful girls, I find life’s enjoyments through them. I try to share with them my love of science. While looking for fairies in the woods, they learn about old growth, how creeks carve out an area, why some areas are wet while others are dry. While riding in the car, they’ve heard about the Catskill Delta, and how this area was covered in warm tropical waters millions of years ago. My oldest likes to tell me about the giant fish she pretends to see as she gazes out the window. These conversations, as well as the excitement I derive during any random science based discussion, made me realize how much I’ve missed actively participating in science. This is what lead me to teaching; another thing I feel has always been a part of me.
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