Making Science Cool for Kids with K-12 STEM Outreach
Mar07

Making Science Cool for Kids with K-12 STEM Outreach

If you love working with kids and you love science, why not find a career that allows you to have both? I mean, who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? I know what you might be thinking: I’m in grad school. I’m busy. And plus, I want to teach college kids. K-12 is for pre-college teachers. These thoughts also came to my mind as I started working on this blog post. For me personally, after I decided to go to grad school I kind of put pre-college kids out of my mind since I was moving on to “higher education.” If I teach anyone, it’s going to be college kids. But it turns out that there is a lot that people in higher education can do to help prepare the next generation of scientists to be successful future leaders—and it’s up to you whether it’s something you just do on the side, or something that becomes the focus of your career. You may have already known that. Perhaps you’ve already done some science outreach things and have even personally demonstrated to kids how cool science is by making ice cream for them out of liquid nitrogen and heavy cream, right before their very eyes. But have you thought about what difference your contributions can actually make? What gets Sharlene Denos going every day is the knowledge that her efforts are helping to make a difference in the future of science in America. From her experiences working in K-12 schools, Sharlene (Ph.D. in biophysics, 2009) has found that the greatest need in K-12 STEM education is for more inquiry-based learning. “The way science is taught, it’s as though everything has already been figured out,” Sharlene said. “When children leave the classroom, they don’t feel empowered like they could actually contribute something to science, and I think that’s a huge problem.” The reason it’s a huge problem is because these kids are the future of our country. If they’re not prepared to take on scientific challenges, or have misconceptions about what science is all about, what then is in store for the future of science? Sharlene has set out to make a career out of crossing academia with K-12 outreach. She loves working with kids and says her goal is to become a professor that helps bridge the gap between research scientists at the university and kids in grades K-12. There aren’t many people in academia doing that sort of thing. But that’s one of the things she wants to help change. One of her goals is to help people in academia find ways to “participate effectively in...

Read More