During the last week of our externship, each team at the museum gave a talk in the super cool Daily Planet Theater, a three story globe shaped structure. It was amazing to give a talk in the theater, and I loved feeling like a real professional and scientist. Putting the talk together also really helped me to process all of the things that we had done during the summer and why we had done them. When I started the project, I wasn’t even sure why people would want to study ants. Now I understand that ants are extremely diverse insects (we found 16 species in Raleigh, and even now some monomorium are crawling around on my computer screen as I type). Ants are everywhere! Besides being super diverse, they’re ultra sensitive to environmental changes, so studying their behavior can help us understand quickly how human actions like urbanization and climate change are affecting living things in our communities. How COOL!
It’s hard to pick one moment from my three weeks that stands out as the most interesting, because almost every moment was exciting, eye opening, and dare I say life changing. Spending my days learning about something I never knew I cared about reminded me that learning can be so fun. Everyday, we were working on things that didn’t necessarily have correct answers. At first, this was a little frustrating for me, as I have grown used to everything having a correct answer, and I’ve always been someone who liked to know whether I’m right or wrong about something. As the weeks went on, I became more and more comfortable with the uncertainty connected to many questions in research, and actually began to enjoy not being constrained by right answers. We had the freedom to ask questions about aspects that we wanted to know more about and then to make steps to answer those questions with guidance from Magda and DeAnna. Lately, I have forgotten what it’s like to enjoy learning, and I think many of my students feel the same way. However, spending time working on real science and connecting it to my classroom has revitalized my love of learning, and I’m positive that these projects will do the same for my students.
Possibly the most valuable thing that I’m taking away from my externship is my relationship with two amazing scientists: DeAnna and Magda. When I started at the museum, I expected that I would have sort of a teacher-student relationship with my mentors, but it’s been so much more than that. These incredibly talented scientists didn’t just pour scientific knowledge into me, they also had a desire to learn about what I do, support me in bringing science to my students, and get to know me as a person. Even though I no longer see them each day, I am assured that I have gained not only two assets to my teaching, but also two great friends.
While I worked really hard during my externship, I also had a great time, and I recognize that there are still many steps ahead of me as I begin to implement citizen science into my classroom and my school. Of course, implementing my newly designed and unique lessons will have challenges, but the externship experience has prepared me well, and I know that I have a whole colony of spirit ants supporting me in my endeavor.