photo by Roy Phifer

What has been your favorite Science Alliance project?

One thing I do is come into the class in my haz-mat [hazardous materials] suit. Or, to
give a sense of how much garbage we produce I bring in sacks of potatoes. All the kids
want to hold the 25 pounds of potatoes!

I like my rocks. I bring in the three different kinds of rocks and do some experiments
with those, like the shiny pennies in the baking soda and vinegar.

Why are you involved with Science Alliance?

I like the idea of bringing science into the classroom. I think science can be really
interesting. I was doing Earth Day projects in the preschool and 1st and 2nd grades,
so [working with OPEF] was an opportunity to do the same thing in a slightly different
way–with more of a science bent and 2-3 times a year, not just on Earth Day. I’ve been
volunteering for five years.

How did you get interested in science as a career?

I was working with student environmental organizations while at the University of
Illinois and that is when I knew I wanted to do something environmental. My major was
psychology–environmental psychology–which is sort of a niche market. So I went on
to get my masters in earth science. At the time there wasn’t an environmental degree–
no environmental engineering, or anything like that. Even the geology before was more
studying just rocks and searching for oil, not like what there is today [in environmental

What is challenging about presenting to elementary/middle school kids?

I need to talk less and do more. I am not as interesting to 4th and 5th graders as I
think I am! They want to see something happen. It’s hard to make these rocks do
something! They’d much rather see an explosion.

What area of scientific work/inquiry are you involved with as a professional?

I do environmental consulting. I’ll do some remediation [of construction sites], but a lot of
it is looking at if there is potential at a site for contamination.