PROGRAM: Newton’s Lab
I have been to some schools that do a really great job of making science a priority (among the million other things teachers have to do each week), but on Thursday when I spent the day at Wake Forest Elementary the students in the fifth grade classes really stood out. In fact, I can’t seem to stop thinking about them and our day together.
We were about to start a program involving Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion, and as I finished getting everything set up in Mrs. Broder’s class, the students were talking to me and asking me questions. That isn’t out of the ordinary, but what was special about this group was that not a single student asked me if I was a “real scientist.” Instead, we talked about things like what experiments they’ve done in class, what the projects around the room were from, and what books they were reading for fun. I knew that these students were excited about the science experiments we were about to do, but the amazing part was that they saw science as something they could do any time. The field trip was “awesome” and “so fun!” and even “the best day ever” according to some of them, but it was also as normal as reading or math. When I saw that doing science experiments was as commonplace to them as division, using metaphors, or reading a great book, and I was filled with love and respect for all the teachers at Wake Forest Elementary School.
As a Science Fun for Everyone scientist, we are frequently asked questions, out of awe and excitement, things like “Are you really a scientist?” My standard answer is that anyone who does science is a scientist, so yes, I’m a scientist, and today they will be one too! It’s a friendly reminder that students can become anything they want to, and that school is a place where you can try out a whole slew of things and figure out what you enjoy doing. But that answer is also my way of connecting with students; it brings me down from Serious Professional In A Lab Coat, and transforms me into someone they can relate to and see themselves in. I love taking science down from that lofty, unattainable place and making it accessible and fun for kids. It’s one of the most important jobs teachers have, and being able to help with that makes me really love what I do. What I saw and heard from Mrs. Broder’s 5th graders was that these students already saw science as part of their present, and their future. This isn’t something that can be taught in a few months, it’s something that every teacher in that school is clearly working to make a reality for each and every student. As a science professional, I want to say “Thank You” to Wake Forest Elementary for paving the way for our future generations to become not only great readers, writers, and mathematicians, but also great physicists, engineers, chemists, and biologists.