Spring Semester Chaos

 It’s gotten to the point of the school year where everything gets extremely crazy. Spring break gave me a chance to breathe while getting the wonderful opportunity of doing service work in Washington, DC and when I came back, I was ready to jump into the second half of the semester. This seemed like a great plan, but as a college freshman, I had no idea how busy this time of the year really is. In the midst of chemistry exams, labs, education fieldwork, research papers, picking out classes for next semester, and being a part of a choir that performs every day of Easter weekend, I quickly realized that this is a time many students dread and I often thought to myself, “Nobody ever talked about this when I was getting ready to come to college! What on earth have I gotten myself into?”

              While all of this has seemed quite overwhelming, I have worked my way through the semester and even though it feels like I haven’t made much progress, I know that I honestly have. Chem labs are still daunting sometimes, but I am much better at working in the lab than I was at the beginning of the year. There is still a big honors college research paper to work on for the semester, but I survived the Friday night papers that I had to work on before. Starting my first part of education fieldwork observations made me pretty nervous, but it is so great to be working in a classroom. It has definitely reinforced the fact that I want to be a teacher and help me see that I may be interested in working with middle school students. And even though my schoolwork has kept me busy, I have still made time to stay involved with the student organizations that I enjoy and have worked on becoming a leader in some of them.

              So although handling everything during my first year of college has been difficult sometimes, especially during stressful times, many good things have happened during my time at Valpo so far and there are a lot of things to look forward to. I love being a part of a choir again and am excited for our performances coming up. Also, many of the MSEEDers will be staying on campus over the summer to work on research and it has been interesting to plan and figure out what I am working on when I am here during the summer. Overall, while college can be stressful, it is best to look for the positive parts and power through the difficult ones. So instead of worrying about things that may have gone wrong, treasure the wonderful memories that you will be able to look back on!

Good luck with the end of the semester!

Brittany

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Children and Science

Research performed at Boston University has shown how young children can actually learn concepts in greater detail than we think that they can. Deborah Keleman, a cognitive developmental psychologist, created a short picture book about fictional mammals with mostly large trunks that they used to catch insects. When climate change forced the insects underground, only the fictional mammals with thinner trunks could get the insects. The book continued to explain adaption by natural selection, which is normally not taught to students until middle and high school. This book was then read to kids ranging from five to eight in age with the expectation that most of the theory would not be understood. To the researchers’ surprise, the children actually understood the theory!

This study shows that “kids are a lot smarter than we ever give them credit for,” says Keleman. She proceeds to say that “children are natural explanation seekers,” which is completely true. Through my many years of babysitting, I have been asked countless questions by children, simply because they are curious. Maybe if we worked on answering their questions, they would learn more and apply what they have learned to other things in school. Another interesting point raised in the article was that many children books about science tend to leave out a lot of facts and instead add more flashy colors and pictures because it is believed that the children will not be able to understand it if those flashy things are not present. That is just another instance that shows we often do not give kids a lot of credit.

Have we not been challenging young students enough in school? The world is in need of future workers in the STEM field, so maybe this could be a way to help with that. By trying strategies that are similar to what was used in the study, students could begin to be engaged in science at an earlier age, which could help with fostering an interest in the STEM studies in their future years of education as well as a better understanding of scientific theories and concepts in general. It’s so difficult to see students in high school who have completely lost interest in science because it’s more difficult to get them to do well in courses. Plus, once the interest is gone, it becomes much more difficult to get it back.

Check out the full article:

http://www.bu.edu/news/2014/03/11/boston-university-research-reveals-surprising-results-about-kids-capacity-for-scientific-literacy/

Brittany

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MSEED Scholarship Day

 

Last Friday was one of the most exciting times of the year for the MSEED program: MSEED Scholarship Day. About thirty high school seniors and a few Valpo freshmen interviewed for spot in the program. I spent the day helping out at the event and it was awesome to be a part of it. As current MSEEDers, we had the opportunity to speak with the prospective students and share our love for the program. It was a busy day that consisted of giving tours and lots of talking, but I loved every second of it. It was really neat to be on the other side of the event since at this time last year, I was interviewing for my spot in MSEED.

To those of you who were at the scholarship day, good luck!

Brittany

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Meet MSEED: Interview with Dr. Morris

 

A new feature I would like to introduce to the MSEED blog is a series of interviews called Meet MSEED. Each interview will feature an MSEED faculty or student. The first person being introduced is Dr. Gary Morris, the director of the MSEED program as well as the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Morris was one of the original founders of the MSEED program. He dated the birth of the program back to about four years ago, when he spoke to Professor Westrick, a professor in the education department, about “ideas for ways to better collaborate between the education and the sciences and mathematics department” since there was not a lot of communication between the departments. Additionally, Dr. Morris stated that there was a national need for “people who are trained in math and science as society becomes more technology oriented.” Thus, the primary goal of the program evolved into graduating “high quality, motivated, inspirational math and science teachers who can go out into the community and be those figures of inspiration for today’s middle and high school students.”

As head of the program, Dr. Morris has some crucial jobs to help keep MSEED running. “I’m the principle investigator on the grant,” Morris said. “I was one of the three individuals involved in constructing the details of the grant. I write all the reports to NSF (National Science Foundation), file all the paperwork, and organize weekly leadership meetings with the grant team.”

When asked about his favorite part of the program, Dr. Morris replied by discussing the quality, dedication, and energy of the MSEED scholars. “We couldn’t be happier with the group of students that have joined us in the past two years. It’s been great forming a student organization, raising the profile of math and science education, helping tutoring programs in the community, and helping fellow students on campus,” he said. He also described his experience of working with a current sophomore on research last summer. Dr. Morris praised the student’s progress and growth by saying that “the summer started and he had no background in programming, but within two months he created a really wonderful project.”

As a closing remark, Dr. Morris described his hope for the future of the program. “I hope that we get to our target of the seventy-five students in five years and that these students, when they graduate, go into schools, particularly in high need districts, and motivate their students to pursue math and science degrees and potentially careers. I hope this program continues beyond the end of the grant, that the community and the university see the value of the program in attracting students and improving the performance of even students who aren’t part of the program in their STEM  because I think the MSEED scholars really influence the larger STEM community on campus.”

Thanks for working hard to make MSEED a great program, Dr. Morris!

 

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Snow day!!!!

The past few days have certainty been interesting. After hearing about the treacherous winds and billion degrees below zero temperature, the university had no choice but to shut down campus. The students huddled together in the dorms and watched the ice slowly cover the windows while hoping that they could survive the awful polar vortex that engulfed the town of Valparaiso…

…Okay, maybe that was a BIG exaggeration of the situation. It actually wasn’t that bad. Classes were cancelled and I did spend the past two days in the dorm, but it was pretty relaxing and fun! While it started to get cold on Sunday, I managed to get a good chunk of work done and then watched Pride and Prejudice with some friends since the author we’re reading in Christ College is Jane Austen. (And really, what girl doesn’t like to drink tea and hot chocolate while gossiping analyze Mr. Darcy?) Monday was my chemistry workday and today I read ahead for some of my classes and watched Sherlock. Needless to say, the Frozen soundtrack was played throughout the long weekend as well. I guess it was a pretty uneventful snow day, but I enjoyed it! It’s just one of those nice little things that happen every once in a while when you attend college in the Midwest. Gotta love the crazy weather!

Brittany

P.S. While the paragraph at the beginning wasn’t entirely true, my dorm window was actually covered in ice and it was pretty amusing to watch it melt throughout the day!

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Regressive Dinner?

I think that many students will say that Valpo is a unique campus. Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a special dinner that the chemistry department hosts every year. It’s called a regressive dinner and is exactly what it sounds like: a backwards dinner. We started at one professor’s house for desert, which included some delicious brownies, pies, and so much more. Then, we went to another professor’s house for the main course and finally finished with appetizers at a professor’s house. It was really nice to get to talk to the professors in the department as well as the chemistry students. Plus, having a home cooked meal was wonderful too! (If you didn’t know, chemistry professors are awesome cooks…) Overall, I think the dinner really represented the close community we have at Valpo, especially between students and professors. Most professors at other schools do not seem to invite their students into their homes for a nice dinner! It’s another Valpo experience I am happy to add to my life here.

Well, it’s time to stay nice and warm in my dorm for the next few days. Classes are canceled for Monday and Tuesday since it is supposed to be below zero degrees, and that’s before the wind chill! Stay safe and warm everyone!

Brittany

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Snow, New Classes, and Singing

This week was the start of a new semester for Valpo students. While it was difficult for many of us to get back, it was great to get started again.

One of the most interesting parts of this week was the snow. For those of you who don’t know, Valpo gets some crazy weather and last weekend, we got lots and lots and LOTS of snow. Needless to say, snow boots were and heavy coats were worn throughout the week! It may sound crazy, but the winter is my favorite season. It’s such a nice time of year, even with the crazy weather. Then again, I grew up in the Midwest, so I guess I’m just used to it. Basically, if you are considering Valpo, be prepared for some interesting weather!

Despite the weather, classes still started on Wednesday. We didn’t waste any time in chemistry and started working on equilibrium! Chemistry can be challenging and this semester will include some tricky material, but I’m ready to work hard to do well. In the world of the Christ College freshmen program, we started our reading for the semester and have already gotten through one book this week. We get to read Jane Austen this semester, which will be fun, but there are also debates and a research paper, so it will definitely be an adventure. I am also starting my first education course and will be doing fieldwork in classrooms as well. It’s exciting to think about teaching!

One of the things I am most excited about is joining a choral ensemble this semester. I’m a part of Kantorei, a choir that sings at services at the chapel on campus. Rehearsals started this week and it is great to be singing again. One of the best parts about Valpo is that you can be involved in so many different things even if they are not related to your major. The music programs here are great and I am looking forward to performing throughout the semester!

Overall, I think it is going to be a good semester and I can honestly say that it is great to be back!

Brittany

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Looking Back at 2013

2013 has brought many great things in the world of science. Mental Floss has a great article on what has happened lately and what we can look forward to. For instance, people are living longer, literacy rates are going up, and more people are able to receive vaccinations. It makes me happy to see the world getting better, especially when it often seems like it is getting worse. That is why it is crucial to get students interested in science now. We need them to keep making awesome improvements to the world!

Check out the Mental Floss article below for the full list!

http://mentalfloss.com/article/54326/11-reasons-be-optimistic-2014

 Have a fantastic new year!

Brittany

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End of the Semester Reflections

Tuesday, around 3:00 P.M, I stepped out of my last final exam of the semester. Needless to say, it felt pretty relieving. I was able to step out of the building knowing that I had just finished my first semester of college. Even if grades don’t turn out the way that I wanted, I can still say that I got through it.

These past few months have not been easy by any means, but it is still an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I struggled with a lot both academically and emotionally, but I also met some wonderful people who helped me deal with that, and many of them are in MSEED. Things were stressful, but I got involved with many different clubs on campus and somehow managed to do plenty of chem labs as well as putting together a musical in a few months. (Still not entirely sure how that happened!)

I believe that there are all things that many of us wish we could go back and change things about the semester. This could include anything from academic life to personal life. One of the best words of advice I have heard regarding this are from my academic advisor. When speaking to him about my chemistry final shortly after I finished it, he told me that it’s over and therefore, there is no point in worrying about what could have been different. I got through it, which is one of the most important things. Understanding and accepting what he said was difficult at first, especially since I tend to be a perfectionist and look back on mistakes quite a bit. In reality though, dwelling on the past too much just ends up causing more pain and I plan to keep trying to move forward and not let me setbacks bring me down too much.

Overall, I consider this semester to be successful. It came to an end yesterday with a Christmas karaoke party hosted by the director of MSEED including entertaining performances from both students and faculty, a dinner with the MSEEDers who were left on campus, and then Christmas carols at the Wednesday night chapel service. Quite frankly, I couldn’t imagine a better way to end a semester. Now I am back home and am looking forward to a winter break full of reading for pleasure and watching movies, preferably Disney ones!

Enjoy the holiday season!

Brittany

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Girls in STEM

In the past few years, there has been quite a bit of emphasis on getting women involved in the STEM field. An article by usnews.com suggests that it is “better to engage girls in STEM early” while really encouraging educators to spark girls’ interests in STEM before starting college. Many people are still unsure of how to spark that interest in the STEM field, but one of the most interesting suggestions that I saw in the article was to “relate it to what’s going on in their world.” Some girls that I have spoken to about pursuing a career in science have said that it is too difficult or boring. What they don’t understand is that STEM overlaps with many other subjects and there are a vast amount of possibilities for them. Helping them find STEM learning opportunities that relate to their interests is key. We have fantastic women working in the STEM field and I am looking forward to seeing many more in the years to come.

Read the full article below!

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/high-school-notes/2013/11/25/how-to-hook-high-school-girls-on-stem

Brittany

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