Monday, April 6, 2009
Girls and Science
Marya over at The Mom's Resource Blog has asked me to talk about girls and science. Here is Marya's question:
Your bio states that you are a former science teacher. How did you get interested in teaching science? What grades did you teach? How can we encourage girls to take an interest in science?
Well I guess the best way to do this is to tell my story. I was a science teacher for five years in a middle school in Maryland. I LOVED it! I taught general science (physical science) to sixth graders and life science (biology) to seventh graders. I'm officially certified to teach 7th to 12th grade biology. My undergraduate degree is a BS in Biological Sciences from UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County) and my graduate degree is a MS in Curriculum and Instruction- Secondary Education from McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College). I taught in the school system where I grew up and taught with teachers who taught me. What a fun time presenting at MAST meetings (Maryland Association of Science Teachers), I wrote curriculum, received grants to monitor water quality of the Baltimore Metropolitan Water Supply, and trained other teachers and student teachers. Loved it all!
This brings me to what motivated me to pursue science. I had a seventh grade life science teacher who made everything fun and I just had the best time with dissections! Here's a shout out to Mr. Peters who inspired me to take on biology as a field of study. Actually, it was in 7th grade that I decided I would be a cardiologist. I was all about heart surgery. All the way through high school and into college. I was med school bound. In high school I gave up the fifth year of Spanish to take the second year of chemistry. I had two years of biology and chemistry and a year of physical science in my four years of high school. I even took second year biology and chemistry my senior year of high school. I loved it all! In fact, I went to gifted and talented science camps all four summers of high school. I spent a two weeks on a tall ship called The Lady Maryland, a spent another two weeks camping and boating around the Chesapeake- during this trip I spent a week on Fox Island where we have to have someone bicycle while we took a shower. I remember being up to my chest in mud between these small islands in the Bay and not wanting to put my hands down to get out. Ultimately with water up to my neck, I was convinced. I stayed at various colleges around the state taking science classes each summer. One of them was where I eventually did my graduate work. I took experiments I did during the summer and presented them at science fairs. Once I won first place. When I was heading into my senior year of high school I was accepted to take college classes at the University of Maryland. I took a Botany lecture and lab. I also got to work with a professor doing research in the field. At the time, both of my parents worked there so I would ride in and head off for my classes. I took the class with seniors who still needed their science credits! Thankfully, I wasn't intimidated when they asked me what year I was. I answered, "Senior!" (in high school that is...). I helped them out in study groups and they routed me on when I went to get my driver's license!! It was fun to have those credits transfer right in to UMBC when I was a freshman. Ultimately, I was given the Biology academic award which is given to one person in the senior class at high school graduation.
I began my freshman year at UMBC as a biology major. The intensity of university studies and my unfortunate encounters with pre-med students of all kinds quickly disillusioned me in regard to my career in medicine. I knew two things. One- many of the students I went to school with had no regard for anything but a good grade to get into medical school. Whatever they learned or did not learn was of little consequence compared to making sure the grade was good. Period. Most of the people I graduated with went to medical school, physical therapy school, pharmacy school, dental school or graduate school. All of them. I was the only person that year to teach in a classroom.
The other thing I learned that first year was that I'm not that intense a person. We had a dr come speak at a campus group and he flat out said if he could it all over again he wouldn't! Being a doctor is intense- the undergraduate program is intense, medical school, internships, residency...and when you are all done... guess what? It's STILL intense- long hours, on call, all that stuff. I quickly decided I would no longer pursue medicine.
However, my passion for biology had not waned so I began to reflect on what ignited that fire. Mr. Peters came to mind. That's when I had an epiphany. I would teach and light fires in other kids! Maybe some of them would go on to become doctors.
And so it began. I took courses to get certified while I did my degree in biological sciences. I don't regret the decision one bit. I'm still not that intense! I'm in the prime of my career these days. I get all the fun and creativity of teaching combined with the fun of staying home with my own kids. There is no better place for me at this time.
Encouraging girls to be interested in science is all about just doing it! Whether your girls are in school or homeschooled, you can model this by doing fun things at home. When kids get to play science they get excited about it. There are so many things that can spark interest for girls. Nature studies, animals, how things work are all good fodder for fun investigations. Here is a recent list of science resources to check out.