I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a scientist and a teacher. My mom and dad, both, instilled in me the desire to be curious and share that curiosity with others. I remember taking the can opener apart just so my dad could help me put it back together. I was in charge of taking care of all plants and animals in my mother's classroom- long before I ever became a student. We spent two weeks every summer in the Great Smoky Mountains. I would find bugs and build them homes, classify plants (never got the poison ivy classified correctly), and spent lots of time floating down the river and naming the fish. Never once did my parents say stop- you can't do that because you are a girl. Instead they encouraged me to learn as much as possible about the world around me. Their motto was that it was never too early!
Fast forward to middle school and the story almost ends. None of my teachers encouraged me to take apart the pencil sharpener. No one thought that I could possibly take care of the box turtle that played around in our classroom tank. When it was time for science projects, the girls were encouraged to bring in leaves, while the boys built rockets. My natural curiosity was somewhat squelched and so was my desire for knowledge. All of those moments of exploring as a child became distant memories.
Thankfully, the story doesn't end there. In my junior year of high school, I met Mr. Munsten. He was my anatomy teacher. I can tell you that although I still secretly loved science, I didn't tell anyone but somehow this teacher knew. He asked me to become his lab assistant. He showed me his new dissection tools when they came in. He would see me in the hallway and give me a new book on biology. He, like my parents, believed in me and began to provide kindling for my small, hidden, flame. Because of him - I knew that my love of science could now be combined with my desire to be a teacher. It's never too late.
30 years later- I look back on my life and see how it could have ended up very differently. I see how choices of my own could have influenced my career, my chance encounter of meeting my spouse, and my life now. (You see- I almost didn't take the anatomy class but my other two choices were full)
I say all of that to say this.....It matters what we say to our children. It matters what we do with our children. It matters because they matter. Had my parents and teacher not instilled the love of science and curiosity into me- I could be working in a 9 to 5 job just pushing papers. My passion would not have been fulfilled. Now I travel all over the country and share the love of science and STEM with teachers and students. It would have NEVER happened without those chance encounters. We need to do whatever we can to show our young daughters (and sons) that they can do ANYTHING that they want in life. Never put them in a box because that's what society says. Take your children to museums, plays, parks, science exhibits, sporting events, cooking classes, dancing classes, just anywhere that they can learn! Give them what they need today to change tomorrow. Walt Disney says it best. "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." Stay tuned for a monthly blog on how to instill these ideals of curiosity into our children because it's never too early (or too late) to start.