Before I decided to volunteer with BioBus, I waffled back and forth between a career path in the sciences or something a little more humanities oriented. Even in my humanities classes, I have appreciated my strong scientific foundation. The benefits of a scientific education are extensive and often touted by those in the field. Having a certain degree of scientific literacy, or knowledge of scientific facts terms and ideas, can aid a person in making smart choices anywhere from shopping to investing. In addition, practicing scientific analysis promotes important skills such as pattern recognition, identifying inconsistencies, and forming explanations or hypotheses.
If the goal of a scientific education is just to have a well-informed public that exhibits these traits, then teachers do not have to go much further than drilling technical tools and memorizing scientific concepts to achieve the desired result. If, however, the goal of a scientific education is to produce lifelong scientists, then an additional ingredient is needed. Teachers need to inspire their students. A desire to discover, to explore and to ask questions are just as important to the scientific process as actual concepts are. It has been the inspirational tools such as BioBus that were the dominant factors in my decision to pursue science on the collegiate level more than any scientific skill.
Inspiring students to pursue science is not necessarily a simple feat and educators have several obstacles to overcome to do so. There is often a stigma associated with science and math—that they are somehow uncreative or boring. Something I came to realize through my forays into science is that nothing could be further from the truth. Scientific research is always face to face with the unknown and it is their desire to
explore that causes professional scientists to constantly push the boundaries of their fields. Helping young potential scientists experience the joy of discovery has been the most satisfying part of working with BioBus. My favorite lesson of Daphnia in particular has the ability of making a student’s face light up with delight. Giving kids a positive scientific experience at a young age is the best way to make such a stigma disappear.
BioBus also has the added goal of helping to overcome monetary hurdles by focusing its efforts on schools whose financial situation limits teachers’ resources and ability to provide an inspirational element to their classes. When the cool and shiny equipment is expensive, communal resources are a great way to make them accessible to everyone. Without such opportunities, I know I would have fallen away from science a long time ago. So thank you Dr. Ben, and everyone else involved in science education, for keeping it fresh, interesting and inspiring.