Be a Scientist
A special edition Keir Wefferling guest post
I have been really enjoying working with “my” 7th-graders over the last few weeks as we explore what it means to be a scientist! The “Be A Scientist” program is organized by Berkeley-based Community Resources for Science, who partner with Berkeley Public Schools to bring local volunteer scientists (students, postdocs, faculty) to the classroom for a 6-week start-to-finish science project. We guide the 7th-graders in formulating their questions and hypotheses, designing experiments, collecting data, and interpreting and presenting their results. This has been an amazing and fast-paced experience to see how the different students each approach questions and problems. They are incredibly quick to adapt to changing plans and to accept unforeseen results. I am learning a lot, both about what gets them excited and about how they ask questions about the world around them. Slimy, gooey science!
Working in a public school in Berkeley is exciting on many levels; it brings me out of my specialized sub-field (plant cytology, biogeography, and systematics) and gives me the opportunity to communicate about the scientific process to a diverse group of citizens in their formative years. My hope is that my enthusiasm for my research with plants—and for science more broadly—will make a lasting impression on the students and show them that science (as well as math, careful planning, researching an idea and following through with the investigative process…) can be fun and satisfying. Of course, the scientific process can be messy at times, and a “failed” experiment will often teach us more than we expect. I am very grateful for this experience that is bringing me in contact with some interesting and bright young people. Their curiosity, insightful questions, and flexibility has certainly made an impression on me!