This past summer I was fortunate to work as a Natural Sciences Educator at my community’s children’s museum, the South Dakota Discovery Center. While working with the Discovery Center I led classes about mechanical engineering, archaeology, kayaking and earth science, robotics, forensics, wilderness survival, and my favorite: plant science!
I loved helping the children explore the world around them through guided observations and exploration, and throughout the summer each of my Plant classes helped start, maintain, and harvest from our living garden. The shock on some of the faces when I told them to pinch off a piece of what looked like grass, but was actually chives, from the garden bed and put it straight into their mouths never failed to make me smile. Watching the students dig in the leaves for pea pods to gently pinch off and open for a snack showed how excited they all were to reap the benefit of all their work.
My garden classes followed the Junior Master Gardener curriculum and over the summer I certified over 20 children as Junior Master Gardeners, a big accomplishment that showed how dedicated they had been to learning about plant sciences such as all the elements a plant needs for survival, pollination, the water cycle, dichotomous keys, and more. We also learned how to properly carry out experiments by deciding on an area of exploration, choosing variables and controls, forming hypotheses, and evaluating the results! My students even contributed to the national Ozone Garden data collection project, which began at Harvard University as a community outreach and education program to spread awareness and knowledge about air pollution. I appreciated every “win” I scored this summer, as well as every chance to learn from situations that were not ideal.
Overall, this summer was a phenomenal opportunity to build my skills as an educator, teach and learn from hundreds of eager children (and encourage and engage the less eager), and appreciate the passionate, caring, and supportive network of fellow educators all working together in the magical environment of our hands-on natural sciences Children’s Museum.