At the start of February I began a 5-6 month placement with Landcare Research. I have been extremely lucky to have been accepted onto the Science Teacher Leadership Program, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. Phase 1 of the scheme involves me being placed into a research organisation so that I can get hands of experience of working in Science. Phase 2 will be during the following 6-12 months back at school, training others in the “Nature of Science” and making Science a priority in our school’s development.
When asked by the RSNZ if I had thought about which organisation I would like to spend time with, I remembered a news article that I had read earlier in the year:
The idea of using ancient poo (coprolites) to tell what the environment in New Zealand was once like, was fascinating (click the picture to read the full article). Nothing gets me more excited than the dirtier side of Science! I mentioned this article to one of the RSNZ coordinators and, a few days later, received an email saying that Dr Jamie Wood, who set up the ancient DNA (aDNA) lab at Landcare Research, would be more than happy to host me.
Things have started relatively slowly; the change in pace has been a real shock to the system. In teaching, from the moment the first bell rings until the final, long-awaited bell, it is non-stop. Teachers are the ultimate multitaskers. They wear a range of characters in front of their students, managing to share knowledge whilst keeping pubescent teens engaged. Their eyes and ears are on constant alert, and as for finding time to sit down, pah! I have been at my host organisation for 8 days. In that time I have had lab inductions to both the Long Term Ecology lab and the Soils & Ecological Processing lab, a general site induction, a herbarium tour, sat and chatted with a handful of researchers, did a little work sorting some ancient sediment, identified some seeds, and did a stint in the insect rearing facility for the biocontrol group. Still, there has been endless opportunities for thinking. Dare I say it, but today I was actually bored! Unlike at school, no one has needed my help, no one has sworn in earshot, no one has needed a “stern talking to” (ie. shouting at). In fact, today I mainly sat in my office with a gentle breeze swaying the punga trees outside my window, and I read. Reading for both pleasure and professional development had become an uncommon luxury, so I am hoping for more of this.
Tomorrow I’ll be vacuuming up a hundred or so little moths into lunchboxes.