A Day In The Life Of A Science Superhero
I had just finished the last lesson for the day about engineering about gears, when Sam, another Science On Wheels educator, pulled me aside. Sam, Alec, and I were visiting a school in Okanogan, Washington with our Engineering Van, and it was my first visit to eastern Washington.
“Do you remember that student you picked in the assembly to do the bicycle demo?” Sam asked. Of course I did. That portion of the show involves a light attached to a stationary bicycle that lights up when pedaled. Donning a comically large yellow helmet, our fifth-grade volunteer demonstrated our electrical engineering design to raucous applause in front of the whole school.
Sam continued on to tell me that his teacher had spoken to her at the end of the day to let her know how appreciative she was that we had picked him for the assembly. According to the teacher, the student was always very quiet and felt slightly removed from the classroom. After the assembly, the whole class couldn’t wait to hear from him about how it felt to be ‘up there’ on stage. He was involved throughout the day, participating in class, changing his attitude so suddenly that his teacher had to tell us.
I internalized then what Alec had meant about Science On Wheels educators being ‘science superheroes’ when he told me about working in this department of Pacific Science Center. I was just a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Education college intern then, working with Science On Wheels staff to curb summer STEM education loss around Seattle.
Science On Wheels is part of Pacific Science Center’s outreach education program that travels throughout the Pacific Northwest bringing science to life and igniting curiosity through content rich and hands-on experiences. Our standard school visit starts off with a morning assembly, followed by educators visiting individual classrooms for a hands-on science lesson. We also set up some exhibits in the school’s gym or library for other classes to visit throughout the day.
Since joining Science On Wheels full-time last June, I’ve been to dozens of schools throughout Washington state and in our region, including Montana. One thing that continues to strike me is that every school is always excited to see us. I know I’m doing something right when students risk getting reprimanded by their teacher to sneak in a “Hey, Science Guy!” in the hallway.
Our vans go beyond the school day. I was able to organize a Family Science Night for a school in Union Gap. To see parents get excited with their kids over our exhibits brings me a unique kind of joy. I usually only visit a school for a few hours, but these parents can use that night as a way to continue cultivating science interest with their children for so much longer.
My goal is not to leave students with the facts of everything I taught. My goal is to arm the students with proof that science can be exciting and fun. My goal is that the next time they are nodding off in front of a textbook or ready to give up on science, they can draw on their Science On Wheels experience to remind them of that excitement and turn the next page.
To learn more about Science On Wheels, visit pacsci.org/science-on-wheels.