Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Optics and Photonics Education
University of New Mexico
The Fellows are finding that working with students across K-12 provides an invigorating contrast to their graduate studies at the university. They are also learning first-hand the importance and rewards of communicating clearly about science to non-scientists. Most elementary students are quite direct in letting these graduate students know when they have not made sense. Consistently, the Fellows report that one of the most rewarding aspects of the program is seeing the “Aha” moment when a student understands a new concept and is excited to learn more. They are constantly surprised by the different perspectives the K-12 students bring to what is familiar to the graduate students. As a fellow reports, “I really like when kids come up with stellar questions that I wasn’t even thinking about, when they really understand something. The questions that a middle-school student asks can be absolutely brilliant.” Working with the students re-energizes Fellows who say they are re-discovering their own love of science and are constantly reminded of how much fun science can be. Their rekindled enthusiasm helps them deal with some of the more daunting aspects of their graduate work and renews their own energy for scientific research.