Sunday, June 2, 2013

A roller coaster of learning.

So I've officially been a full time graduate student for 3 semesters. That's a whole year and a half of research! Since this has basically been my life for the last 18 months, I feel like I should have written a few blogs about this aspect of my life...but it hasn't really come up so far.

UNTIL TODAY

Yes, that's right. I'm going to blog a little about my life as a graduate student. I know you are all
sitting on the edge of your seats right now.

Graduate school: a non-stop roller coaster of fun and learning.
This past week, I spent three days out at our Coastal Ecology Lab working with high school students for educational programming. Since I am funded through an NSF grant, part of the deal is that we partake in outreach programs involving high school and undergraduate students. These can include field trips for classes or summer research interns.

What's in YOUR water?
This past week was a program that brings local teachers to our campus for a two week professional development program where they create a science curriculum for their students, culminating in hands on activities. This is what brought nearly 200 students to our lab over the course of the week.

Having worked with students before in an outdoor education setting, this was a nice throw back to what I was doing before grad school.

I have always found it frustrating though, to only work with students of a few brief hours. There are always the students who are eager to learn and those who are eager to be the center of attention. You get these tiny little glimpses into who they are and the kind of help they might need to be successful students and eventually adults....and there's not really a whole lot you can do in the small amount of time you have with them.

I guess the only thing you can really hope to accomplish is create a spark of interest or excitement in them, one that their year 'round teachers can help encourage, or that they choose to pursue on their own. Another benefit to programs like this is to help students get an idea of what higher education is like, which will hopefully encourage them to pursue it. Because I go to a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), I feel like this is especially pertinent because we cater to a more diverse population of students, both in terms of our outreach and in terms of the current undergraduate and even graduate population at the school.

As a future PhD student with a possible career in academia awaiting me, I just hope that I can find students who have been encouraged to pursue their fields of interest before they get to college. This means parents who were supportive, as well as teachers who encourage a love of learning and allow students to explore potential career paths and interests.
I love learning. So. Much.
Now I can understand why a teacher would jump at opportunities to get their students out of the classroom and doing hands on activities...much to the chagrin of some of my fellow grad students, who would rather be doing research and otherwise hastening the arrival of their graduation date. Some of us though, plan on continuing on in academia, so outreach programs like this give us valuable teaching experience and a chance to develop our own curricula.

I guess I can understand why outreach activities might be tied in to research grants too now...