In our effort to contribute in some small way to the communities we visit, our family has done everything from collecting trash on a beach to picking up dog poo in an animal shelter. However, there are times when Brian and I get the chance to offer our own career skills to local organizations. Especially for me, since I walked away from my career to become the official homeschool teacher and travel agent for our family’s worldwide adventure, it feels really nice to put my past professional experience and knowledge to work.
Not too long ago my work life focused on the STEM/STEAM education movement in the United States. I was lucky enough to collaborate with some of the most innovative and motivated people I’d ever met to improve student learning in those important areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. This effort was the most rewarding and creative period of my career as I worked with amazing teachers and business partners to help change the way kids learn about the world and prepare for their future professions.
I was really grateful for the opportunity to bring my knowledge of STEM best practices to JWOC, an organization providing free educational classes to both children and adults. As I observed the science classes being offered to young students and provided feedback to the teachers, I felt as though I’d stepped back into my work life before this trip. I heard myself talking about all those important teaching strategies we promoted in our STEM work. Less lecturing, fact drilling, and busywork. More hands-on activities, outdoor learning, and collaborative group work.
The instructors proved to be open to new ideas and willing to expand their teaching styles. It was exciting to see the next science class in the series include a trip outside to gather plant samples, a hands-on flower dissection, and collaborative group work among the students. I have to admit, watching the students’ enthusiasm for learning about plants definitely beat picking up dog poo.