March 1, 2024

Bringing Education to Young Students with ‘Skype a Scientist’

Author: By Online Learning Tips Staff
Go to Source

By Dr. Wally Boston, Ed.D.
President, American Public University System

Note: This article originally appeared on Wally Boston.

I’ve often written about the impact of technology and the Internet on content generation on a global basis. In my role as president of APUS, we have graduated nearly 100,000 students during our 27 years of educating students at a distance, and more than 80,000 are currently enrolled in online degrees ranging from associate to doctoral. Yet as a university, we are called to contribute to the common good, and many of our faculty and staff engage in projects outside of APUS as part of their contribution. Dr. Jennifer Cramer, our program director of sociology, anthropology, and general studies, and Dr. Danny Welsch, Associate Dean for the School of STEM, have been participating in the “Skype a Scientist” program and provided a description of their participation in case others who read this may be motivated to volunteer as well.

Scientists often engage in community service through providing educational programs at local schools, community centers, and other public events. Through the “Skype a Scientist” program, some university faculty have brought their expertise and passion for science to K-12 classrooms across the country.

Jennifer says, “With this program, I have virtually visited classrooms in seven states. I share information about my research on monkeys and answer student questions about wildlife, travel, and science career paths.

“The teachers and I do a bit of advance planning, discussing some of the interests of the class to see if there’s a connection we can make between my research and the concepts the students learn through classwork or field trips. I also share photos and information about my research in Africa, helping students learn more about monkeys and other wildlife.”

She adds, “Often, I’ve found that students really connect with this information. They have questions about how they can help conserve endangered species or how they can be more environmentally conscious in their own neighborhoods. It’s been a humbling experience to be around children who are about 10 years old or younger, asking really thoughtful, forward-thinking questions about how they can take care of our world.

“What’s been surprising as well is that children in even the youngest classes – middle and elementary schools – are really interested in how I became a scientist. They seem especially inspired to learn that my parents and grandparents are not scientists.

“Choosing this career path was a new direction – one unique to me – because my family and teachers helped me pursue subjects and experiences that I really loved and was interested in. It’s been important to some of the students to learn more about me being a mom and scientist, especially since my daughters are young like them.

“Growing up, I was fortunate to have several female teachers in math and science courses, and found a lot of support for pursuing a science career when I was a college student. As a mother, I’ve become more familiar with the shortage of science teachers, and the lack of accessible scientists and career role models for children and teens. Participating in ‘Skype a Scientist’ has been important to me to help bridge that gap, helping expose children and teens to career options and parts of the world they might not have yet learned about or exploring themselves.”

Dr. Danny Welsch, environmental scientist, has visited classrooms in four states and works with students from 2nd to 9th grade. He says, “I talk about my research in Montana, West Virginia, and Oregon, sharing stories about working in remote field situations. Also, I show interesting samples from my rock and fossil collection and talk to students about my journey from wanting to be a chef early on to becoming a scientist in college.”

Danny has found that students are very interested in the fact that he didn’t always want to be a scientist, and that scientists don’t have to be really smart to be successful. They just have to be willing to work hard and think creatively.

About the Author

Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell.

In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston, who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange.

During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc.

He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant.

He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, Maryland, with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

Read more