Bringing authentic science to the classroom from NAPC

by Jennifer Broo (@jbroo)

This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to co-present with Dr. Bruce MacFadden during the “Two to Tango: Amateur-Professional Interactions in Advancing Paleontological Knowledge” Symposium at the 11th North American Paleontological Convention (NAPC). I have gained so much from my partnership and work on fossils and evolution with Dr. MacFadden, most of which has directly improved the content of my teaching, and I was beyond excited to share that experience with others. Although I have been to several education conference, this was my first professional paleontology conference. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed every minute of it. The plenary sessions were outright inspiring with how they emphasized the importance of science in today’s world. The other scientific talks were both informative and interesting, and they allowed me to expand my knowledge of paleontology. I also had the opportunity to visit the La Brea Tar Pits and the Alf Museum.

This was one of the most enriching professional developmental experiences I have ever had. Not only was it mind-blowing to see all the amazing research and discoveries first hand, but I also had the opportunity to network with a wide variety of people, from members of the Dry Dredgers to professional paleontologists. Being a teacher can be an admittedly isolating experience; while I love the profession, there can be days where I find myself starved for adult and professional contact. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that I teach at a small school where I am the only AP Biology teacher. The dinner functions and social events allowed me to interact with some truly fascinating individuals. I lost count of the number of amazing, academic conversations that not only advanced my knowledge of paleontology but also my knowledge of the scientific work going on out in the “real world” (beyond the classroom walls). Today’s students crave authenticity, more so than previous generations I have taught, and my interactions with scientists at NAPC enable me to bring that authenticity to the classroom and enrich their science education. As a result of the NAPC conference, I return to the classroom energized and inspired to be an even better teacher.