Putting Science in Your Students’ Future

by Elizabeth Keller

I knew from the age of six that I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up. My science education began before I started school, from my father who shared his passion for science by exposing us to the world through the eyes of scientific inquiry. He encouraged inquisitiveness by patiently answering our endless questions and pointing us to resources for finding answers to the questions he couldn’t answer.

I was thrilled beyond measure when I obtained my first job as a scientist, working as a student intern at NASA Ames Research Center.  I eventually went to work as part of a team of scientists and engineers who developed science experiments for flight on the space shuttle.  It was a hectic schedule and a demanding workload that was a balance between hardware-compatibility testing on the ground and developing detailed operating procedures for whole teams of people who eventually would be helping during the missions. Traveling three to six months out of the year was a job requirement for mission support at NASA and it just was not compatible with family life.  I left my job when my first child was born so I could be home with her.

I wanted to bring more little scientists into the world.

The demand for highly-skilled, qualified professionals in the challenging fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is rising as our modern world becomes more technologically sophisticated.  Right now, there are not enough qualified people to assume many of the highly-skilled jobs that are leading employment recovery, and the demand for STEM-capable professionals is only going to increase.  Many Americans are great consumers of science and technology, but it’s imperative that our children, our future workforce, be prepared to assume the jobs that continue to build innovative products for people around the world. Not everyone is cut out for this kind of work, but many of our capable students are veering away from STEM careers at critical junctures in their education.  Everyone, it seems, gets that science is important, but very few want to do science.

I’m hoping to change that.

In the years since leaving NASA I’ve poured myself into inspiring kids to get excited about science. Between researching, writing, and publishing a wide range of science topics online, teaching part-time in classrooms, and volunteering in the field, I continually seek out opportunities to be a ‘science evangelist’.  Science is always changing and there’s never a shortage of new discoveries.  I’m excited to be blogging with KIDS Discover because it gives me an opportunity to share exciting new discoveries in a way that inspires further inquiry. I feel strongly that effective science education involves connecting students with the work that real scientists are doing every day.  Blogging is great forum for focusing on fresh science in ways that I hope will provide insight and inspiration to the most important and influential people our young scientists can access – their teachers.

You can look forward to a ton of new, and some tried-and-true, ideas for fun, hands-on classroom activities, to reading about exciting new findings and how to connect them with your classroom activities, and getting in touch with real-world science using resources available to everyone.