STEM isn’t so Scary After All

      Comments Off on STEM isn’t so Scary After All

I’ll readily admit, going into my internship I was a bit anxious, apprehensive, nervous, worried—you get the idea—about spending so much time in a “sciencey” space.  Frankly, I was overwhelmed by the thought of being completely out of my element, struck dumb by the fact I’d have no idea what was going on, and a bit of me was also self-conscious about that “new kid in the lunch room” feeling—like, who WOULD I sit with at lunch?

This was not the case.

These concerns are so silly in hindsight.  Instead of anxiety and apprehension, I have to say throughout my time at the EPA, I was regularly overcome with awe.  I loved being able to go into labs, see real life research being done in fields that directly impact me and overall human health.  On top of that, I was able to ask ALL THE QUESTIONS without feeling self-conscious or silly.  I loved being able to speak with so many people who are incredibly passionate about what they do.  Most interestingly about all of this though, I rediscovered my own passion for science and environmental education.  Rather than being dumbstruck, I was awestruck to see exactly how much goes on at the EPA.  Equally impressive, all the jobs, research, and testing that can be done through coding.

Though I was personally delighted that I was able to “keep up” with most of the scientists and human health worker, I was perhaps more intrigued by how universal coding is when it comes to getting a job.  One of the most stand-out insights during my fellowship is that if young people pursue an education in coding or computer science, they will be a part of the future.  In addition to this revelation, something else I found interesting is how many people I met that ended up with completely different life paths than they had intended.  I will most certainly be sharing that with the young people I work with.  This is so relevant because many young people feel pressure to make real life choices while still in high school—sad fact, most grown ups don’t talk about the messy paths that got up to where we are—these are stories that young people need to hear most though, so they won’t be afraid to fail.

While thinking about the moments leading up to my internship at the EPA, I realize now that so many of my doubts were wrapped up in fear.  I was afraid of not knowing enough, of failing my school by not “bringing anything back,” failing my students by not being able to push them hard enough, or by not being able to make “real world” connections.  Mostly though, I was afraid of failing myself—what if I couldn’t do this?  What if I couldn’t make this work in the English courses I teach?  What if I didn’t have enough time in my life to make this all work?  You know, just everyday people concerns.  Entering this fellowship, this internship, was a huge challenge with regards to my own self-confidence; I needed to overcome these doubts.  By seeing how relevant and accessible Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math work at the EPA is, though, eased my anxieties so very, very much.  Through this experience, things I didn’t think would make sense to me became very understandable.  I was excited and intrigued by possibility and SCIENCE.  I look forward to sharing my own stories of overcoming anxieties with young people in my classroom, while also helping to spark their own curiosities.