Sunday, September 21, 2008 - 02:15
What do you do if you're a scientist and want to volunteer in a classroom? How do you find the right place to go and right kind of activity that suites your talents? One of my commenters asked about this a few weeks ago. With the new school year up and running, it seems like a good time to tackle this question. What kinds of volunteer activities do scientists do? Your effort can be big or small. Small efforts can involve speaking in a classroom, mentoring students via ea-mail, judging science fair projects, or assisting with homework questions. Larger efforts can entail doing or assisting with classroom experiments. One of the scientists at Immunex (Janis Wignall) used to go on her own to visit classrooms, armed with gloves, pipettors, and electrophoresis equipment. It does help to know a little of the lingo. Usually, volunteering gets classified under the broad category known as "outreach." Looking for opportunities then, means looking under "outeach." I've been involved with several outreach groups now for over a decade. It seems to me, the most effective and sustainable kinds of outreach happen when scientists work with some kind of outreach organization who can pair the scientists with the projects, teachers or students. That way the organization can find new volunteers and keep projects going if volunteers burn out. I'm volunteering, now, to play matchmaker and post some of this information for scientists who might be interested in helping out. So, if you are involved in science, technology, engineering, or math outreach and you want local scientists to know you exist, feel free to write to me and I will post information about your program and your web site.