FINDING A LOVE FOR STEM EDUCATION BY LANA PETRIE
When I was little, I didn’t have the normal childhood most kids have growing up. I was diagnosed at age 5 with chronic pancreatitis. I was the youngest case Vanderbilt Hospital had, so they didn’t really know how to fix my pain. I had multiple surgeries and hospital stays throughout those years. It is kind of surreal to think about now. Yet, despite these struggles, I did learn that I had a love for science and serving people. I saw my doctor, Dr. Wallace Neiblit, constantly thinking outside of the box to help me. He also had a crew of resident doctors that would come in, read off my case like on Grey’s Anatomy, and brainstorm with Dr. Neiblit. My doctor was devoted to helping me and was able to do so (put simply) through science.
Fast forward to present day, and I am an AmeriCorps Senior Leader serving with MTCC. I get to serve students and help spread my love for STEM Education. Especially due to my past, STEM Education is close to my heart. Now, I want students to understand their potential and see how much fun STEM programs are. As such, I treasure any chance I get to work with students and cultivate their appreciation and love for science.
The most rewarding experience I have had thus far in this pursuit was creating science fair projects with students at Hot Springs School. Each student got the chance to show their personalities in each project. One had a love for animals and did a project testing bacterial growth of her dogs’ mouth compared to her own. Another project was focused on water quality of lakes in the surrounding areas. There was such a wide range of ideas and interests among the four projects, but, at the end of the day, it was brought out through having a passion for science.
Seeing all of their projects on display at the SKC Science Fair Festival helped remind me that making science fun can show students that STEM careers are fun. It reminded me how Dr. Neiblit used science to help me get better and why I eventually chose a STEM career in Agriculture. I hope to continue to spread my love of science to students wherever I go. You never know how students will respond to your lessons, but sometimes it can be the best surprise.