Field Trip Explainers

Reflections on life at Exploratorium

Tag: general

Happy Vernal Equinox!

by Chas

March 20th, the first day of spring, and the day when the sun should rise exactly between two column of the rotunda when viewed from the center of the dome. even though clouds were forecast, Anne, Khamara, and I headed out to see what we could see. I arrived a bit before 7 am. the lights were still on, and bats were flying about.

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the cloud cover continued all morning but we could see a bright spot rising between the columns.

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although we didn’t get to see the sun, it was still a magical morning. there is something special about watching the world wake up in such a beautiful location.

Aiona the Know-it-all

by Aiona

For me, explainer training was all about learning one big, surprising, challenging concept; explainers do not really explain things. Not very often at any rate.

I graduated from college several months ago with a big smile, and an inflated ego thinking “great, now I know pretty much everything there is to know, and can finally go teach some of my expertise to other people.” Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, I’m not quite that bad, but I am probably a certifiable know-it-all, and I was definitely always that obnoxious girl in class who wouldn’t put her hand down, and had to have the answer to everything. The weird thing I’m realizing is that in a lot of ways I still am that girl, and around my co-explainers it gets me irritated glares instead of ‘A+’s.

I’m also noticing that a lot of the kids who come in here really couldn’t care less about my obscure facts or complicated jargon-filled explainations, some of them just want to do their own exploration, and, of course, that’s the whole point. So I’m learning to keep my mouth shut, ask more questions, and have less answers. It’s an ongoing process but so far it’s been interesting. I think maybe our job title is a little off. When I asked the other explainers how they described their positions they threw out some much better ones, like “experience facilitator.” I also think “exploration patrol,” should be considered. We do have badges.

Happy (Almost) Birthday Sputnik!

by ryan

Frankie O in 1957Fifty years ago on October 4th, the Russians launched Sputnik, the first human-made satellite, into space. There were a lot of great articles about the anniversary in the NY Times science section this morning, but I was especially interested in this one article that talked about how science education was affected by the events. The article talks about how in the wake of learning about the soviet advancement, science teachers started to really think about how to involve their students in chemistry, biology and physics in order to stimulate interest in scientific careers. The article goes on to tell about how science education has fallen back into some of the old routine and that even though Bush says he wants to make America competitive in the sciences, the No Child Left Behind emphasis on testing really can get away from hands on activities and experimentation.

In the article, Dr. Shirley Malcolm says that “students should be given the chance to do real research — to experience framing a question, deciding what kind of evidence is relevant and figuring out how to collect it. ‘I’m not saying there’s not drudgery in science,’ she said, ‘but when you get to the point where all the data are sitting in front of you and you start seeing patterns and nature begins to speak — that’s a kick.'”

Here’s a link to the article.

Get off my back man...I'm a scientist!

Interestingly enough, Frank Oppenheimer was a High School science teacher in 1957 (the same year Sputnik launched for those of you bad at math like myself).  I found a great speech that he gave to the PTA as a teacher on the explo website. Even though the Exploratorium wasn’t started until a few years later, you can really see how his ideas of exciting curiousity and teaching problem solving carry over to the museum. It’s as if he caught the bug of dynamic science teaching and never let it go. It’s neat to think about how the Exploratorium fits in with the overall science cirriculum of the country. I think that we all would agree that we represent a pretty ideal situation, isolated from many of the challenges in the classroom. But I hope that we can help to inspire people to try new things, show both kids and adults that science doesn’t have to be scary, and land a man on the moon in the next decade.