Skype a Scientist

Rose here –

I recently got to participate in a different kind of outreach activity. Instead of going to a classroom or museum and talking to students in person, I got to share my research with students in a classroom all the way across the country via Skype! I had signed up with an organization called Skype a Scientist earlier this past fall.

I didn’t take any pictures during the session, but here are the rocks I used to answer their question “what are your favorite rocks that you’ve collected?” Clockwise from top left: a conglomerate a friend sent me from California, a jar of Mount St. Helens ash my gramma collected off her car the morning after the eruption, a piece of Columbia River Basalt I collected in undergrad, a gypsum rose from Morocco (my parents bought it in a shop in Oregon), a large quartz crystal my gramma collected in the Mojave desert, a piece of rose quartz I collected in the Sierra Nevada, and a piece of amethyst my roommate brought back from Uruguay.

This organization matches scientists with teachers who would like to have a scientist talk to their classrooms about their research, maybe related to something they’ve studied in class. Because it’s all conducted via Skype, the scientists and classrooms could be anywhere. I live in Knoxville, TN and the 7th grade classroom I connected with is in Seattle, WA. This was fun because I grew up in the greater Seattle area, so I could talk about the local geology. I got to share with them how growing up in the shadow of volcanoes, experiencing earthquakes as a kid, and learning about the glacial ice sheets that used to cover the land where my family now lives all inspired me to love and learn about geology.

My thesis research here in Knoxville has been on the geomorphology of Mars, which was perfect because this class was just finishing up a unit on Mars geomorphology. The teacher contacted me a couple of weeks before we met via Skype. I sent them some info on my research and the students sent back a list of questions they had for me. The topics of these questions ranged from undergrad vs. grad school to questions about Mars to questions about my favorite rocks or field areas. I was really impressed by the thought they put into these questions and the range of things they were interested in. During the Skype session, I started by answering as many of these questions as I could. This took about half the class time, so the teacher and students then had a chance to ask follow-up questions. The students were very engaged and interested in what I was saying. I was a little nervous beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to answer their questions or the technology would fail on us, but it went really well and we all agreed it would be fun to do again. If you are a teacher or scientist I would totally recommend checking it out!

If you are interested in signing your class up, or a researcher interested in talking to a classroom, you can sign up for Skype a Scientist here!

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