One of the very first tasks of this course is “introductions.” All the students in the class write a quick description of who they are, and I’m always impressed with people who can play water polo or bowl competitively; people who have complicated family lives that are really relatable or totally different from my own; people who aspire to be teachers but have an apprehension about science. People reveal all this stuff simply because I ask them, and I’ve found that as the semester goes by I get to learn more things about you, which only makes me realize that there’s still more that I don’t know. You’re all really interesting and complicated.
So, I figured that it’s only fair that I am at least as transparent about who I am. I’m a lot less complicated than you might think. And you probably don’t need to know anything about me in the first place, but I’ll offer it.
If you’re realizing right here on this line that you’d rather not take any additional time to learn any more about me, you can stop. I love teaching and the natural world and my family. Everything else derives from this. The end.
Here’s the rest:
Sometimes I have to give a presentation and someone will ask for a “bio,” or, I have to fill out a report an include what’s known as a curriculum vita or “CV.” I stow these kinds of things in the trunk of my university webpage, and I distill a few things onto a personal page, but a lot of that paints the same, plain picture. It’s just me in my khaki pants, maybe with my shirt sleeves rolled up.
Here’s a list of things that I like, in no particular order:
- I’m married to Karyn, and we have two daughters. They used to be much smaller. The daughters, I mean. Karyn’s about the same size as when I first met her. I really like going home.
- I love being outside on a trail. I try to do a long backpack trip each year (including this recent one to get a view of the solar eclipse from a pass in the Wind Rivers) as well as some shorter treks. Over the last few years I’ve started trail running, even though I used to thing that running is dumb. Now, a ten-mile run is one of my favorite things to do early on a Sunday morning.
- I play piano. When I say “play,” I really mean that, rather than “practice.” I’m terrible at practicing. I’m better at making things up than at reading notes.
- I run a program where we get to play and do science with kids in Ogden City parks over the summer. I host a small conference in science education and I do a lot of other work with teachers around the state. I recently got involved with a dance|science project that actually put me on a stage and now has me collaborate to host workshops. I’m also working (slowly) on a project to document and describe more deeply what it means “to learn.” All of this is called “work,” which makes me giggle.
A summary of all this is that I really, really love to play with the natural world and try to figure out how we learn this stuff. I think that learning science is a form of really engaged play, and I think that learning science and doing science both take on that kind of playfulness. This isn’t to say that it’s easy. It’s hard. Really hard. So, when people come to a class like this and say that they’re intimidated by science or that they’re scared of this class, I can think of a million reasons why this could be the case. I’d like to remove a lot of those reasons, but I’m happy to honor the fact that it’s challenging —just like baking a good loaf of sourdough or playing a violin concerto or teaching fourth grade. That’s what the course is all about. We’ll untangle explanations about the natural world and look for the simple rules, and in the process we’ll figure out how this is done by everyone from particle physicists to 5-year-olds.