Thursday, January 10, 2008

More about Mama Joules

So ... just who is this Mama Joules? What makes her qualified to write a blog about learning to like science anyway?

When I was a freshman in high school, my entrance scores qualified me to enroll in both Basic Biology and Earth Sciences, a course of study that my adviser chose for me. I thought that my adviser was insane. I had to take two science classes? At the same time? Quickly, I withdrew from my optional Earth Sciences class and settled in to hating Biology.

I disliked both years of high school Biology, with the notable exception of my bean plant experiment. I had to design and implement that study myself. I was crazy about the author Madeleine L'Engle and, in one of her books, she describes a study in which plants were shown to have feelings (To this day, I'm not sure whether she made that up or not; I should look into that someday). So, I decided that I would try her character Calvin's experiment and grow bean plants. I would ignore one set of bean plants, talk kindly to the second set, and scream at the third. My theory was that the plants I loved, the ones I talked nicely to, would outgrow the others. I thought that the ones I ignored would grow normally. And the ones that I yelled at would shrivel up and die, right? Wrong.

First of all, I should never have tried to germinate plants in the dead of winter. Many of my seedling containers grew not beans, but mold. My Biology teacher kindly loaned me a heat lamp and a few of my plants finally sprouted. Which ones grew best? The ones I yelled at. I had to scrap my first theory. Maybe all of that yelling helped my plants to grow by giving them more carbon dioxide.

But I still didn't like science. In my junior year of high school, I did well in Chemistry solely because of my teacher. Maybe he had a great teaching style, I don't really remember. I only remember his arms. That man had the highly chiseled forearms of a Greek god. Watching his arms naturally led to me to read what he wrote on the board, which must have translated into learning.

Unfortunately, Mr. Greek god-arms left after my Junior year. We had a brand-new science teacher for my Senior year, when I took Physics. (I still don't like Physics). I did terribly in this class, as did many of my classmates.

So, when it came to college, I ignored my father's advice to major in math or science and chose Journalism. Well, that lasted for three semesters. You know what? I got bored. I had no science in my life and I missed it. Imagine that!

Well, I can't say I that had no science in my life during that time. I did take one required science course -- I chose Environmental Sciences for Non-Science Majors. I aced that class. It reminded me of all of the things that I loved -- parks, green space, recycling, saving the planet. I was hooked.

I spent my fourth semester of college with one foot in Journalism and one in Biology. After that, I never looked back. I was so far behind in my required science coursework that I went from no science courses to having to pile them on. I really wanted to graduate on time. One semester, I had nothing but science classes! My grades dropped, but I was challenged. I hung in there and finally graduated -- a semester late -- with my Bachelor's degree in the Biological Sciences.

Since then, I've worked both testing animal blood and investigating hazardous waste sites. I've earned a Master's of Environmental Management degree, had three children, and started writing freelance articles (and a blog) about science. In a strange way, that takes me back full circle to when I was a Journalism major.

Except that now, I don't hate science.


[Updated 10/22/09 -- Changed "two children" to three. Sorry it took me so long, Baby Princess!]

1 comment:

CrazyCris said...

It's wonderful that you were able to switch from "hating" to "loving", so many people wouldn't give it a second chance!

Even after reading about the US University system (and seeing it on TV, movies etc), it still surprises me this system of taking required courses in certain fields... in Europe we usually just jump into our field of choice! I had 4 solid years of 100% Biology classes (except for a bit of obligatory physics, chemistry, maths ad geology and an extra of French litterature I did because I'm crazy like that). The idea of having to sit through "obligatory classes" in fields I'm not interested to the detriment of more interesting biology classes?1 *shudder*