Michael Tinnesand is a retired high school chemistry teacher who champions science education through volunteerism in Pasco, Washington. As an ACS Science Coach, his outreach efforts are reinforced by the belief that every student, despite their socio-economic situation, should have the opportunity to learn about science in public schools.
Tinnesand’s decision to become Science Coach began, in part, as a way to help underserved students while bonding with his daughter, who is an elementary school teacher in Pasco. Many of the students at the school live at a low poverty level with little prior exposure to science. By gradually introducing the students to science, Tinnesand helps the children understand the basics. The activities and demonstrations present science concepts such as how energy can change.
To further engage students, Tinnesand coordinated a year-long project with the class. He taught students about lead uses and hazards, and asked each student to bring one toy to school from their homes. With the teacher, Tinnesand tested for lead in each toy while teaching the students the importance of creating a test that treats all experiment variables equally. The experiment discovered that one of the 30 toys showed the presence of lead. It culminated with a prize-winning science fair entry from the class.
“Students always like something different and out of the daily routine of their classroom,” says Tinnesand. “I found the students to be very receptive of everything I presented, and they are very positive in their regard for my work.”
Why he does it:
“There is a benefit to getting kids turned on to learning science by doing flashy demos, but anything you can do to help a teacher with the existing curriculum is like money in the bank,” says Tinnesand. “It will pay dividends for a long, long time.”
Advice to those considering becoming an ACS Science Coach:
Tinnesand suggests ACS Science Coaches use existing contacts to find a teacher, and then inquire about ways to assist in the classroom. Chemists must listen to the teacher’s wishes and needs, while giving themselves permission to step out of their comfort zone. “Your first lesson might not be everything you had hoped, but it will be better the next time. Education is iterative,” states Tinnesand.
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.