A gift of laughter and learning

In the fall of 2015 I became an entrepreneur. 

I created The First Life Science (FiLS) Program to provide a fun and educational science experience for elementary school students (www.filsprogram.org), and Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, DC was my starting point.  For years I had been a science educator working with programs such as the AAAS Senior Scientists and Engineers Program and the Carnegie Academy for Science Education’s First Light Program, but at Bancroft I had the chance to take the lead and develop my own curriculum.  I was nervous and excited.   I visited the school once per week for seven weeks teaching lessons focused on biology.  I acted as a guide as the students explored the world of plant biology at macro- and microscopic levels.  I constantly wondered, ‘Are the students learning? Are they having fun?’ Instead of asking the kids if they were having fun, I observed them.  I saw plenty of smiles, heard the occasional outburst of uncontrolled laughter and I was summoned to their respective lab tables to share in their discoveries – they were definitely having fun! 

 The Sundews were a class favorite.

The Sundews were a class favorite.

“Mr. Chris come look at this!  Wow, what are those tiny green bubbles?” one student exclaimed.  During our final three weeks the students were examining Elodea cell structure, and the green bubbles were chloroplasts (the energy producing compartments of plant cells), as seen through a microscope.  Each successive week came quickly and our sessions passed in a hurry.  At the end of our seven weeks together, I felt great about the experience.  I made positive connections with the students and parents and I identified my strengths and revealed areas that needed improvement.  Two weeks have passed since the last session ended and I went back to the school to grab the Venus flytraps and Sundews in order to care for them over the holiday break.  Upon my arrival to the classroom I found a few pieces of art mixed among the plants.  One sign reads “Danger! Man-eating plant! Grows fast!  Will eat you! Big Stingers!”  The other artwork, even with its misspellings, gets its message across loud and clear.  After reading them, I laughed aloud and a tear may have come to my eye.

 My favorite piece of art!

My favorite piece of art!

Their art let me know the students learned and had fun!  They enjoyed their experience and learned some important plant biology concepts.  As for me, taking a chance and leading this program was one of the best experiences I have ever created.