When did you get involved with Global Village?
Seth Baker invited me to participate in 2005. My daughter was his student the previous year. Since
then he has invited me back every year.
What has been your favorite Global Village project?
My favorite has been the field trip to the Indiana Dunes with the 6th graders (click here to see
photos of last year’s trip). We ask scientists from the EPA, the Indiana Department of Natural
Resources, and Save the Dunes Conservation (a local nonprofit) to participate. The kids rotate
through different stations where they get to try their hand at testing water chemistry, establishing
stream bank condition, entomology, and geology, and last year we were lucky to see the construction
of a stream restoration project. The kids leave charged up because they get to connect the dots
between what we have been talking about in the class and doing it in the field.
On the other hand, what was the least successful project? What would you have done
We built a Rain Garden in the spring of ’06. It was a great experience creating it. The sixth-grade
students helped with the design. Some students came up during their lunch to work on plant
selection. We constructed it with each class of students (25-28 per class) coming in three waves. At
one point I had a bit of a panic as I was looking at all the garden tools in motion, but we made it
through with only the need for one band-aid. Just the simple act of being outside getting your hands
in the dirt made a huge impact. I saw one boy look at the other and say “This is cool!!” “Yeah!” and
then they both put their heads down and kept digging!
The part that I feel the most regret about is follow up. We really should have worked with building
maintenance and other school programs to have some signage to keep it going. Some of the plants
are there, but some got trampled and some I think might have been removed as weeds.
What area of scientific inquiry are you involved with as a professional?
I work for the Environmental Protection Agency. I have worked in Air enforcement and
environmental analysis and am currently working in the Watersheds area. Basically I work with the
state and nonprofits that are trying to protect their river, lake, or stream from sources of pollution
that are not regulated. 60% of water pollution comes from unregulated sources. I have a BS in
Biology and an MS in Environmental Health Science.
How did you get interested in science as a career?
I always loved math, science, and reading. I enjoyed learning how things work–the biological and chemical things, that is. I can also say that I had some wonderful teachers in high school who made
Biology and Chemistry fun.
When I was finishing my undergraduate work, environmental science was a very new area of study
(1989!), so I was very lucky to talk to the right professor at the right time who pointed me in this
direction. Being out on the lake grabbing water samples on a beautiful day was a highlight.
Can you tell us about a particularly memorable experience with Global Village?
I had a girl come up to me during one lab and say “You know, I never thought about being a
scientist until I met you.” Wow–the fact that she saw a whole area of study open up to her–I felt
honored to be a part of that.
Our kids live in a pretty urban environment, and as a result are surprisingly disconnected from
nature. Oak Park is wonderful in that it a walkable community, but we have lost that connection
to nature. So it’s always interesting to listen to them talk all excited about getting in the water or
mud, but then at the moment we are there they are shy and unsure. Once they get in though, it’s all
over–they are just sparking with excitement and fun. And keep in mind: This was not just on field
trips, it was even in the back lot of the school just digging in the dirt. It is even when I bring dirt
into the school for a lab on wetlands. The permission to get a little messy, well, it’s intoxicating.
* Global Village is now known as “Science Alliance”