Week 1: Hitch, Hack, Home - It's Off to Work I Go!

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Monday, June 13, 2016


Samantha Spytek

The first week is done! Ane while I'd like to say that it went off without a hitch in the first five minutes, well, that wouldn't be true. Nor could I say that I didn't accidentally hack my way through the orientation meeting. And then of course at the end of the first day it would be nice to be able to say that I did the very adult ritual of going back to my apartment and making my own dinner, but alas, instead I must tell how I went to my mom who gave me food and a nap. Despite these first few hiccups, I did in fact manage to adult by myself for the rest of the week. So I'll paint a picture of that, rather than focusing on the run back to the apartment from the metro stop before even having gotten on a train on the first day to grab a forgotten passport, or the embarrassing bout of hacking and coughing that took place in the middle of a meeting and my escape to the bathroom, or the unintentional two hour nap I needed after a day of mostly sitting and being fed food and information. 

For the rest of the week, I got a lot done. So did the rest of my little research group that I'm a part of. I went through and completed 5 first drafts of lesson plans, and got partway through a sixth. Between the four of us in the research group, of the 40 lesson plans we have to make first drafts of, we've already gotten through more than half. I'm more than a little proud of us. With a goal of finishing all of the lesson plans and have them ready to go on the website with a launch date at the end of the summer, we're essentially flying. Of course, many of the lesson plans that we finished were the ones that either were already really close to being done or had straightforward progress that needed to be made. Now we're getting down to the lesson plans that are much rougher, and their basic outline does not match the changes made last year when the interns standardized everything. These will take more time, but some of them are so far off the mark from the standards we're trying to keep now that it becomes a question of whether or not it's worthwhile to try and salvage them. If not, we need to just throw it out and work on making totally new lesson plans that expand on the current topics and are more in line with our own personal interests in the history of physics. I suppose we'll cross those bridges as we come to them.

While most of the week was spent on these lesson plans, we had quite a treat on Friday. We went to the National Mall and gave physics and astronomy demonstrations and ran activities where the kids could take home what they made. We had pocket solar systems as well as mobius strips to be cut into chain links and whirly tubes to play with. I always thoroughly enjoy outreach activities such as these. At my school we have a class dedicated to giving outreach trips, which I took twice as a freshman and was the TA for this past semester. I think the best part for me is that I can get just as excited as the kids do about the activities, and that generally only makes them more excited. Even if they go on to never do science beyond the classroom, I like to think that having engaged positively with science as a child they will at least understand the importance of science and appreciate the significance of scientific inquiry. As a teacher in training, this is probably the most important lesson to learn. 

Samantha Spytek