by Denise Porcello (@denise-porcello)
As an elementary teacher, I was honored to attend NAPC, to speak of my involvement with the Fossil Project. During the week, I got a glimpse of the life of a paleontologist beyond the field. The paleontologists welcomed me in to their community, and patiently answered all of my questions. The sessions that I attended reignited my passion for science and left me in awe of the paleontologists- both professional and amateur.
Midweek, I attended a field trip to the LaBrea Tar Pits and the Alf Museum. There is no substitution for place-based education. I left with a much better understanding of the time period, and the processes involved in trapping and preserving these ice age animals. The Alf Museum, with its world-class displays, and opportunities for learning, sets a unique example of experiential learning, allowing its students to make and report on real paleontological discoveries.
This was my first opportunity in my career to present professionally and the thought of doing so caused much anxiety. However, through the week I was encouraged by the authentic warmth and sincerity of the participants I met- which helped me to overcome my fear of public speaking while looking out at an impressive sea of faces: PhDs, PhD candidates, “amateurs” (in quotations because their knowledge is in no way at the amateur level!), museum directors, higher level teachers and international paleontologists. These scientists were genuinely interested in my experiences in the classroom and I enjoyed sharing my expected, and unexpected, outcomes of my involvement with the FOSSIL Project and myFOSSIL. My personal and professional knowledge has been deepened tremendously. In exchange, I can return to the classroom- to share my excitement and passion for science to the next generation of paleontologists, citizen scientists, and museum lovers (and their parents)!