One thing that I’ve missed especially since leaving New Jersey is working with kids. I spent most of my summers since high school as a day camp counselor, and then babysat quite a bit during my gap year between undergrad and grad school. But since moving to Pittsburgh, I hadn’t found many opportunities to work with kids besides judging the occasional science fair.
I was excited recently to stumble across a program called Letters to a Pre-Scientist. It pairs up scientists with middle school classrooms to write back and forth as pen pals for the school year. How fun! I signed up for the program a couple of months ago, and was really excited to receive an email last week saying that I had been paired up with a student! There are more scientists than there are students, so not every scientist who signs up gets a pen pal. I’m glad I did!
Another cool thing about this program is that most of the classrooms that participate in this program are of underprivileged students who may not have a lot of opportunities to experience science. Many of these students doubt their ability to complete high school, let alone move on to college. It’s impossible to know exactly what will motivate any individual student, but it’s nice to think that participating in this program might help at least a few of the students see a bigger future for themselves than they are currently able to imagine.
As a scientist in the program, I’m asked to write 4 letters to my pen pal over the course of the school year. I’ll keep an update going on the blog if and when I get a letter back! I hope this experience is ultimately as fulfilling for the both of us as it has the potential to be.
Help us do science! I’ve teamed up with researcher Paige Brown Jarreau to create a survey of Isn’t That Grad readers. By participating, you’ll be helping me improve Isn’t That Grad and contributing to SCIENCE on blog readership. You will also get FREE science art from Paige’s Photography for participating, as well as a chance to win a t-shirt and other perks, like a $50 Amazon gift card! It should only take 10-15 minutes to complete. You can find the survey here: http://bit.ly/mysciblogreaders.