How did I get into doing science shows?
When I was 12 years old, I spent time catching butterflies and "putting them to sleep" with my mom's nail polish remover. I soon wanted to be a scientist. My childhood and teenage years were notable for finding many "unconventional" ways to do science at home. Most of those I should not mention lest I unwittingly inspire this generation's group of children to try what were actually very dangerous experiments.
By any regular definition of scientist, my wish was clearly not fulfilled, but I am happy to be a "science educator", my self-proclaimed title. This is how it got started. In 1990, during my first year of university, I walked into the East Bay Science and Nature Company and after seeing their selection of science products, I mentioned that I would be back to purchase science supplies. One of the owners was behind the counter and she found out I was a student and that I enjoy teaching science. Nelia asked me if I would be willing to plan science workshops for kids visiting their store on summer days. I did three or four workshops, including a bubble workshop. It was not a performance, but I taught kids to make bubble makers and bubbles, of course. One workshop made it on the news. The store frequently received calls after that summer from people who wanted me to perform science shows. The first show I developed was the Bubble Show. I put children inside bubbles, made a bubble trampoline and a bubble caterpillar. It was a huge hit and the shows helped put me through university. I am still doing them, of course. At the time, my professors at UVic were very understanding when I missed classes. Several of them mentioned that what I was doing would benefit my efforts to become a teacher. One even commented that it would be more useful than attending his class (I had known that). I had many opportunities to develop hands-on activities, games and workshops in schools.
After two years of university, I was getting itchy feet and ended up taking a two year break to travel. I ended up working as the head cook of the Pacific Swift on its offshore voyage from Victoria to Seville, Spain. Although I enjoy cooking, the science nerd/educator side of me found chances to perform bubble shows in classrooms, orphanages and occasionally on the street as I traveled around Central America, the Caribbean, the South Pacific and Europe. Once I returned to my studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Education (with a science specialty, of course), I taught in private schools and at schools overseas (Prague, Czech Republic; Cairo, Egypt and Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, Mexico). Science continued to be a priority and I found chances to share my love of science with children everywhere I taught or lived. While in Egypt, I worked as the head of the Science Department of a large school called New Ramses College. My task was to help the department avoid teaching science by rote and train my teachers to use the most modern methods I knew of: experiments, hands-on activities, stations, games and of course, field trips. To see students who formerly had only memorized the periodic table of the elements doing experiments and activities that showed their understanding of the concepts involved, remains one of the highlights. Ever year I work on finding new ways to bring science into the classroom (as an elementary teacher, I am not always teaching science in an official capacity). As a French teacher, I developed simple, language-intensive science lessons to motivate the students. Recently, as a grade 2/3 classroom teacher, my students and I bust open various broken electronic devices so the kids could find out what iPhones, printers, clocks and VCRs looked like on the inside.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I am an unusual person. Science is not my only hobby. I love languages, history, politics, cooking, culture, travel, the outdoors, technology, and too many other things to name.