Science a natural fit for Westover's Sarah Michaelson

Sarah Michaelson's personality demands for movement. Whether it's doing a hands-on experiment or just playing with dirt, the different aspects her job brings her is why she ultimately chose to pursue science education.

"I thought science would fit my personality more as a teacher because you get more actual problem-based problems, hands-on experiments," Sarah said. "I think I get very restless and I like jumping around to a lot of different types of activities and I think that affects my teaching. I try and do a lot of different types of things within one unit, whether we're showing a video, or doing even like cut and paste activities .... I like to switch it up because I get bored doing the same thing over and over."

Originally from Iowa City, Iowa, Sarah is in her second her teaching science at Westover. A once political science major, Sarah said she started missing the more concrete, hands aspect of science.

This year, she's been able to teach a unique year-long class for upperclassmen called "Humans and the Environment." The class was broken down into three courses that all fell under the umbrella of environmental science.

"I thought science would fit my personality more as a teacher because you get more actual problem-based problems, hands-on experiments."

"The first course was called 'Biodiversity and Ecology,' and that was looking at the environment, how did species evolve to become so diverse? How did species interact with each other?" explained Sarah. "Second term, was 'Climate Change.' We looked at it from the perspective of how has climate changed over time before people, then transitioning to now, what are humans doing to change the climate."

Those topics shifted nicely into the current spring term course of "Human Impact on the Environment," where the class focus is on how are we are unique as a species in our ability to change and affect the environment around us.

Sarah said this term one of the first things they did was read an article called "Tragedy of the Commons" and did a lab that simulated the article. The students were put into a situation having to make choices that would benefit them, but knowing how it would affect the environment.

"It was really interesting that the data we got really reflected the hypothesis of that article, which is that people are driven to do things for their own self-interest, even when they know long term it's not going to help them because it's going to destabilize the environment. That was a fun way to start off the term."

Other activities this term have included a "dirt day" and exploring the topic of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), listening to a podcast, paper modeling, and watched a documentary.

"I think that topic (GMOs) the students find interesting, i find it really interesting," Sarah said. "There's a lot of different viewpoints in the class so that makes it fun."

Sarah said the one thing she'd like for students to take away from this class is perspective.

"I think the range of impacts and trying to put it in historical perspective is important," she said.