Ignoring that this makes me feel old, I'm eagerly awaiting my 7th match for this amazing program. Last year I had a slightly older penpal, and we connected over struggling to overcome childhood obstacles as we moved forward in school. I can't wait to see what incredible young person I get to learn with this year!
Here's to year 6 with this amazing program! I'm very excited to meet my penpal! They are in 6th grade, so this is one of the older students I've had so far (three years running before this were 4th graders). I'm looking forward to sharing our love of the ocean, animals, and computers!
If anybody needs me, I'll be checking my mailbox.
Today I got to meet two classes of VERY enthusiastic 5th graders who live in Kansas. Participating in this program as a marine biologist is always especially fun when I get to meet kids who may have never seen the ocean before. We talked about ecosystems, food webs, keystone species, and shark burn (worse than rugburn, I promise!).
I was so grateful to see students wearing masks, but it was still hard to see full classrooms together knowing they are too young to be vaccinated. I'm glad this program continues to unite scientists and students, but now more than ever, we can meet online!
My favorite question from today was "what is the scientific evidence for why we think Greenland sharks are the oldest vertebrates?". Future scientist right there!
Today I registered to be a scientific pen-pal for another year. This will be my ... 5th? 6th?! year participating in this program. Each year, you get paired with a student between 4th grade and 12th grade, and exchange letters. I learn so much about communicating my work from breaking it down for students. It is also very rewarding to change the image students carry of what a scientist is. As much as we write about school, we write about our pets, our hobbies, and our hopes. I have a file folder of all the previous letters from my penpals, so I'm hoping to add 4 more this year!
I love participating in this program every semester, but during COVID this has become one of the more rewarding ways I stay connected to others.
So far this semester, I've met with four classes of enthusiastic fourth graders and with a couple of families.
Fourth grade highlights: "The ocean has spiders?! But I thought it was safe!" "Have you ever seen a shark poop?" and more inspiringly "I should learn to code I could do that!".
Family highlights included talking with parents about COVID, vaccines, and why I felt safe getting mine. Turns out a marine invertebrate biologist was approachable enough for grown ups to feel safe asking questions, too. Felt great to maybe make a small difference!