What started as a simple project to excite my mom's 7th and 8th graders into learning math and science turned into one of the most inspirational activities I've done to date. My task was to go around the JOIDES Resolution and interview colleagues in different careers about the science and math they use in their career. I started with those usually in close proximity to myself and ended by interviewing someone I hardly see on the ship even though the JR is only 470 feet long. The aim was to engrave into the brains of my mom's students how important math and science are to various careers but I actually engraved it into my own brain. Funny how that happens, isn't it?
I had no idea how much math is flying through the heads I walk past everyday on the ship. I knew about science, obviously, because I'm immersed in it all the time. But math! My goodness! This whole expedition is math in action! I got really excited talking about 3D calculus and differential equations in the interviews. I remembered all my classes and how much I regretted not having the time to get a minor in math. I remembered how much fun it was to solve complicated problems even though I tore my hair out crunching the numbers and rearranging the equations. I had forgotten how rewarding math really is.
It was also a social activity I probably would never have initiated myself. I am naturally curious about what people do for a living and what they happen to be doing at the moment. But I'm also naturally shy. It usually takes me awhile (and more often than not, a catalyst) to break me out of my shell. There had been a few catalysts prior to this blog series (Wii nights, card games, etc) but none that went any further than light conversation. While researching for this series, I had to ask (relatively) personal questions like "did you always want to do what you do?" and "do you wish you would have taken more math?" - questions that, if it weren't for this series, I would have left this boat pondering. More importantly, though, I learned that a number of my colleagues stumbled on their present career through trials, tribulations and random chance opportunities. This, in itself, was a catalyzing experience. Throughout this process, I have felt myself open up and socialize more and when you're on a boat with 90 other people for 2 months, socializing is very important for sanity's sake.
I learned about them as people too. One of my colleagues reloads bullets as a hobby. Another likes to organize things like Legos. All of the sudden, they become more than the "Staff Scientist" or "Engineer" in the photo line-up in the hall. You now see them as a person and new friend and will for the rest of the cruise. It's true what they say about people you've been to sea with - they're friends for life. You'll see them on future cruises or at conferences and because you sailed on that one boat on that one expedition that one time, the next time you see them, they'll be an "old friend".
I didn't expect to gain anything in this experience. I expected only to gather facts to put into colorfully written passages to make kids go "Ooo, awww, math and science are cool! Mrs. T, what math and science are we doing today?" I didn't expect to get myself excited about math and science - I always considered myself ALREADY excited about them. I didn't expect to discover that art and photography use math and science. I didn't think I would enjoy being a reporter and I certainly didn't expect to finish the series wanting to interview everyone on the ship. In the end, the series sparked a lot of interaction with the students and a lot of excitement amongst my colleagues. Seems like I wasn't the only one who pondered the careers of their fellow sailors or the hobbies of their friends. Everyone loved the series but it was me who fell under the spell intended for the students. I am more excited than ever to study math and science and to never forget it. I am even MORE excited to hear the life stories of my "old friends" and to meet "new" friends. Perhaps, I engraved more into my brain more than I thought I did. Delightfully so! After all, learning the things I did writing this series made my heart smile!
Thanks, Mom, for the assignment! Even if the kids get nothing out of it, it was still a wonderful experience that I am likely to initiate in the future! :)