By Kacey Fitzpatrick
“One afternoon my high school physics teacher said, ‘Wow, you’re picking this up a lot faster than you realize, and you might have a knack for this.’ That comment sort of lit off a bell for me.”
If you ask an EPA researcher to share what first inspired them to pursue their current career, there’s a good chance they will point to a teacher or professor who sparked their budding passion in science, technology, engineering, or math with an interesting class experiment or some words of wisdom.
EPA environmental engineer Dr. Gayle Hagler, who will be returning the favor in one of the webinars below, can remember the exact day that her teacher inspired her. “One afternoon my high school physics teacher said, ‘Wow, you’re picking this up a lot faster than you realize, and you might have a knack for this.’ That comment sort of lit off a bell for me.”
Dr. Hagler and other Agency researchers are joining forces with The National Science Teachers Association, the world’s largest organization of science teachers, to share their personal stories about the work they do helping to protect human health and the environment.
The Association’s online learning center offers free, 90-minute, web-based, interactive, live seminars featuring scientists, engineers, and education specialists from their partner organizations. The goal is to unite science teachers with nationally acclaimed experts to help them develop fun and exciting ways to engage their students in science.
Check out these three webinars presented by EPA researchers to learn more about tools you can use in and outside the classroom.
- Do-It-Yourself Air Monitoring: Explore the Atmosphere and Turn on Light Bulbs!
Date: Thursday, September 25, 2014
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
How many tiny particles are in one cubic centimeter of air? What’s the difference between “good” ozone and “bad” ozone? In this webinar, Dr. Gayle Hagler will explore what’s in the air we breathe; how and why scientists measure air pollution, and the growing popularity of citizen science. You will learn a fun hands-on activity for students to build their own air monitor that uses the latest micro sensors to measure particle pollution, commonly known as dust, and turn on light bulbs based on the level in the atmosphere! Learn more.
- Get Energized: Interactive Generate! Game Explores Energy Choices and Environmental Quality
Date: Thursday, October 23, 2014
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
How do we understand the costs and benefits of the energy choices we make? What happens if the mix of energy sources changes in the future? What does this all mean for our climate, air, water, and overall environmental quality? In this webinar, Dr. Rebecca Dodder will present some of tools EPA scientists are developing to help states, communities and Tribes make decisions about energy use now and in the future. It will also introduce an interactive board game developed by EPA scientists called Generate! that encourages students to explore energy choices and the environment. Learn more.
- Exploration and Discovery through Maps: Teaching Science with Technology
Date: Thursday, November 13, 2014
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Are you interested in using maps to engage students in science? EPA’s EnviroAtlas tool uses a combination of maps, analysis tools, fact sheets, and downloadable data to help users understand the interactions between people and the environment. Users of all skill levels can access hundreds of maps embracing a range of disciplines including biology, chemistry, geography, and environmental science. In this webinar EPA researchers Anne Neale and Jessica Daniel will give you a first-hand look at all the resources EnviroAtlas has to offer. Learn more.
Below are a few more things our researchers shared on “EPA Scientists@Work” about how teachers inspired them.
I had a wonderful 10th grade high school chemistry teacher who instilled in me a love for chemistry. I knew after that class that chemistry was what I wanted to study in college.
In the early 1960s, there was a television show called Gilligan’s Island, and the character I most identified with was the professor. He was making coconut radios and figuring out meteorological events and developing new things, all in the hope of getting them off the island. The professor was a role model. Here was a guy on an island without any tools and he was trying to make a difference. I wanted to be the guy who could look at problems and find solutions involving the use of science.
I knew around the start of high school. I took a lot of math courses and, thanks to some great teachers, I was really motivated to learn more math and science. By the time I was in the tenth grade, I narrowed it down to chemical engineering.
When I was in fifth grade, I had an outstanding teacher. He did all kinds of hands-on experiments in the classroom. In one particular experiment, he separated the class into three groups where one group washed their hands with soap and water, one group washed their hands with just water, and one did nothing. The group who only washed their hands with water had by far, the most bacteria on their hands. The water just mobilized the bacteria off of their fingers. Those experiences really got me interested in science.
I was very curious as a child and always wanted to know why and how things work. My “aha moment” was probably during my freshman year in high school when one of my science teachers told me that I should study engineering—specifically chemical engineering—since I was a good math and science student.
Probably junior year of high school. My teachers were inspirational role models, and I enjoyed all of my classes. By senior year I was intrigued by practical applications of math and science, and started to think about engineering as a career path.
I’ve been interested in science since my 9th grade earth science class. It was the first time I got to do experiments and see that I could learn different things about the world through experiments.
A lot of my interest in science came from my dad, who was a physicist and professor at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. I always wanted to be like my dad.
Do you have a similar memory of a favorite science teacher or class? Please share in the comments below!
About the Author: Writer Kacey Fitzpatrick is a member of the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a student contractor. When asked about her own science education, she replied: “I had a really cool forensics science class in school!”