Public outreach, especially to elementary and high school students, is a great way to spread knowledge about important ecological and environmental processes and practices as well as to encourage students to pursue a career in STEM disciplines. I use my research as a platform to connect and engage with students both in the classroom and the field. I have acted as a student mentor, STEM career panelist, and guest speaker to schools in the USA and in South Africa and have also partnered with educators to create teaching materials and specialized learning workshops. Key goals of my outreach activities are to open students’ eyes to the natural world, highlight a variety of STEM career opportunities, and foster a learning-friendly environment that builds individual confidence.
In South Africa, I have been lucky enough to lead and contribute to a number of field-based student learning opportunities including both day and weekend-long field trips.
I have also conducted a number of classroom visits to give guest lectures on a range of topics including pursuing Ecology as a career, fundamentals of experimental design and the scientific process, along with hosting Q&A sessions with students potentially interested in STEM disciplines.
In the USA, I primarily engage in classroom-based outreach and am an annual contributor to a multi-year high school STEM research course in which students are exposed to a wide range of STEM topics ranging from materials science to environmental studies.
I am currently developing and testing a junior high and high school level model-building math workshop that aims to engage students in critical thinking and link basic math with environmental concepts to tackle real-world problems (e.g. building carrying-capacity models for wildlife management). A key goal of this workshop is to build student confidence and to highlight how math learned in school can be applied in real-life situations.
My research has been featured in “Sensational Senses: Amazing Ways Animals Perceive the World”, a children’s book by Rebecca Hirsch (published by Lerner Publishing Group), as well as Scholastic News, a major cross-curricular education magazine, and has been turned into teaching resources for the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade levels. A link to the book can be found by clicking here. Links to the article and teaching resources can be found by clicking here.