Jessica Rabuck, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, strives to positively influence young students’ perception of science by being an ACS Science Coach. Volunteering her spare time in a second-grade class, Rabuck works to help young students to better understand science through educational and fun hands-on activities.
As a fulltime graduate student, Rabuck found herself in the lab and missed interacting with younger students. She reconnected with children by being an ACS Science Coach at a local elementary school. Rabuck assisted during science lessons, and was pleased to witness students’ enjoyment throughout each experiment.
A favorite lesson of Rabuck’s teaches students about tree life cycles. She conducts a chromatography experiment to communicate about color changes in autumn leaves. Using coffee filters, the pupils extracted chemicals that force leaves to turn colors, and they were able to view several pigments. “I integrated fun concepts that the students were learning, and it has made science so much more interactive! The students were always eager to know what we were doing for the day,” says Rabuck.
In addition to drawing-out students' enthusiasm for science, Rabuck discovered that volunteering as a Science Coach is beneficial for her, too. Interacting with students forced Rabuck to explain science concepts in layman’s terms to ensure students understood scientific processes, and Rabuck quickly learned how to engage an audience while speaking in front of a group. “The enthusiasm from students energized me about my own research and helped me work through my own research problems with a much more positive attitude. I’m also better at public speaking now, and can communicate with audiences and scientists in a more efficient way,” says Rabuck.
Why she does it:
“I believe that it is important for chemists and scientists to interact with the community so that the public sees science in a more positive light,” says Rabuck.
Advice to those considering becoming ACS Science Coaches:
Rabuck acknowledges some chemists may be intimidated to approach a new school to ask to assist a science teacher whom they do not know well. However, most principals and teachers are open to the opportunity to have a scientist volunteer to enhance students' learning. “If you are even slightly interested in doing this program, contact a local school! They will be thrilled to hear from you, and you will be greatly rewarded through your interactions with the teachers and the students,” she says.
Interviewed July 2014.
ACS Science Coaches
ACS Science Coaches are chemistry professionals who share their expertise and enthusiasm for science with an elementary, middle, or high school teacher over the course of one school year.