It’s not easy, Elizabeth Paladino ’15 found, to keep middle schoolers busy all day. Paladino, a chemistry major from Waverly, Iowa, worked for the Science Center of Iowa this summer, where she planned and led science camp programs for 5th to 8th-grade students. “We had to plan the entire day,” Paladino says. “I learned how important it is to overplan.”
Rachel Braak, ’15, a biology major from Ankeny, Iowa, also learned to be flexible while working at the Science Center this summer. Braak moved between different groups to lead 1st through 8th graders in all kinds of activities, from the classic Coke and Mentos reaction to vacuum chamber experiments. “We tried to make it as fun as possible,” Braak says. “It was great to connect with kids and show them science is cool.”
According to Paladino, this discovery also takes place in science classes at Central. Paladino started college before declaring a major, and she says her helpful professors and exploratory courses caught her interest so quickly that she chose chemistry after her first semester.
Paladino, who is part of Central Teacher Academy, says she was grateful to have had previous experience working in the classroom. After her junior year, Paladino had already had many opportunities to practice teaching and keeping students safe. Paladino’s summer job at the Science Center gave her further opportunities to observe and learn from coworkers who teach during the school year.
Braak also drew on her experience as a Central student — particularly her recent ornithology class with professor of biology Russ Benedict. Braak’s enthusiasm for birds earned her frequent duties as a guest teacher in other classes. “At the science center, I was mainly known as ‘the bird person,’” Braak says. “I was able to use lots of what I’ve learned.”
In the future, Braak hopes use her developing teaching skills to educate children and adults about conservation — especially animals. Braak interned this fall for the Lincoln Park Zoo education department while completing a semester in Chicago. After a successful summer, Braak will also return to work at the Science Center of Iowa later this year.