My dad is an aquatic biologist and when I was a kid he would take my siblings and I “benthing” (his word). We would basically stomp around in the water and try to find macroinvertebrates under rocks. He would be able to tell us how healthy/unhealthy the creek was just based off of what he saw in the water. This time period of discovery and wonder led me to a life-long pursuit of seeking out and protecting nature. I always want to spend time in the outdoors and learn about the wonderful world around us. And I want to share that feeling with others, just like my dad did with me.
Before joining the program, I was stalled in my work as a non-formal science educator. I worked for several for profit science education groups and reached a point where I realized I needed to change what I was doing to grow professionally and to be challenged to learn new skills. Knowing I did not want a traditional teaching degree or job, I started looking at graduate programs that I could mold into what I was looking for. I was drawn to the AIP because it was for teachers and non-teachers to work on communicating with others about current literature or their own work.
One of the projects I did as an AIP student was with a group of teens at the Queens Zoo. I led an inquiry lesson about urban ecology, and set the teens out to make their own videos about what they learned. In a single afternoon, the teens wrote, directed, and starred in mini-documentaries about the living world in their community. I edited the videos and we screened them with their peers. Their work was very well done and I believe they learned a lot in the process. The AIP pushed me to think about how people consume media and learn - to include more inquiry in my work and lessons, and to explore participatory media production.
When I think back to my time with my dad in the woods, I was able to explore and learn on my own. He was a fount of knowledge, but he let me discover on my own and add in his own information when I was stumped. Now as I teach my classes at the NY Aquarium as a Conservation Teaching Fellow and Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Corps, I try to allow the learners take the lead.