A few weeks ago, I blogged about my plans to bring in special guest, bio-chemist Erika Ebbel, to our class. Well, today all three of my classes had the unique experience of having this video conversation with Erika. Erika was profiled on The Secret Life of Scientists which is a wonderful site where students can learn about many different types of science and the real people who live it daily. Additionally, Secret Life of Scientists provides video snippets into the “secret lives” of these brilliant folks allowing students to get a glimpse of the diverse interests and hobbies that even “really smart” people enjoy!
Leading up to our conversation today, I prepared my students by watching Erika’s videos (each one is no more than a few minutes) and having some conversations in class about the context. It was very good for the students to see Erika speak to the fact that she studied very hard and did well in school, continues to study science (and loves it) and entered and won beauty pageants. Perhaps the most interesting to the students was the video, Whiz Kids, where Erika explains how, when she was in 11 years old, she got her idea for a project to see if cells commit suicide when diseased. She got her idea from visiting a crocodile farm where she learned that when crocodiles become fatally wounded, they roll over in the water and commit suicide. She goes on to describe how she set and achieved her goal to conduct this experiment. The challenges she faced with her experiment were not much unlike some of the challenges my students are facing with their own Science Fair experiments. Some of my students are also finding their results to be inconclusive or that the resources they need are not readily available and so they need to change their plans.
This was a great opportunity for my students to ask Erika questions about their projects, science, the beauty pageant or anything really. The students prepared questions and we were ready to go.
Erika graciously agreed to do this video conference with me three times (so that each of my classes could benefit). I didn’t want to consume too much of Erika’s time, so I vetted the questions in advance and only a few students in each class asked their questions.
Erika is incredibly engaging and developed a lovely rapport with the students right away. She obliged us with talk of her awards and achievements, but you could tell she was much more comfortable talking about where she/we still needs to go. It’s clear how passionate she is about her work and how much she wants young students to develop the same love for science and math that she’s embraced.
There were many messages to be gleaned from the conversations and I’ll be spending some time next week debriefing with the students and having them work on their own “Secret Life of Students” profiles where they will identify their own areas of expertise to share with others.
I want to thank Erika for spending so much time with me and my students. Additionally, I’d like to thank Tom Miller and Karen Laverty (some behind-the-scenes folks from The Secret Life of Scientists) who helped facilitate this wonderful instructional experience that my students will surely remember always.
Special thanks to Ms. New, university student from FAU, for all her EXTRA help that day!
Update: Secret Life invited me to be a post a guest blogpost. Check it out here!