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    NIWC Pacific Employee Participates in ‘Teleschool’ to Support STEAM Outreach

    NIWC Pacific Employee Participates in ‘Teleschool’ to Support STEAM Outreach

    Courtesy Photo | On April 24, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific’s Environmental...... read more read more



    Story by Jaime Ciciora 

    Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific

    Though there are some things students may appreciate in a “teleschool” environment, such as wearing pajamas to an online classroom, there’s bound to be some activities that students miss: seeing their friends face-to-face, stepping into their favorite classroom or not being able to attend school functions. Perhaps they miss time away from their parents as much as parents may miss their alone time.

    Students across America are staying home from school following the Center of Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance on social distancing to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. That hasn’t stopped them from attending classes as many schools are adapting to distance learning and virtual classrooms the same way many adults are teleworking from home.

    One NIWC Pacific employee was determined his eight-year streak to support science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) outreach would not be broken by a pandemic. On April 24, Patrick Earley led a video call to continue the tradition of an annual fish dissection.

    Earley leads the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific’s Environmental Sciences Branch and since 2012 has provided a fish dissection classroom experience with the kindergarten class at The Child’s Primary School in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego, Calif.

    Earley got involved in the science project through his daughters, who attend the school.

    “My drive has always been about my two young girls. My goals are to make them as empowered as humanly possible, to know that they can do anything and be anything that they want. [Gender] is just a word, not a limiter. Showing that a girl can take apart a ’gross‘ fish – remove the heart and gills and pull them apart – as much as a boy can is important to me.”

    When asked why a teacher already employed at the school did not perform the dissection, Rachel Szalay, a school lead and kindergarten teacher, stated, “The parents of students within our school are experts. We have brilliant parents at our school. What a great resource. I could handle the project myself, but to have a professional and expert in the field able to answer the student’s questions with their expansive knowledge on the topic is valuable to the learning experience.”

    Earley’s usefulness became apparent when Szalay couldn’t readily identify the purpose of a fish organ – a gill raker. It was her own example of a question Earley would be better prepared to answer. In the joint-interview, Earley pointed out she wasn’t quite correct in her summary of the organ, to which Szalay replied, “See, that’s why we need [Earley].”

    “[He] can speak with clarity and certainty. It is a completely different experience for the kids,” said Szalay. Always ready to encourage STEAM learning, Earley prompted Szalay on what the organ might do and she was able to recall: gill rakers help protect the gills from debris before the water flows over them, “similar to how a rake works.”

    Though this year the project ended with a completed dissection witnessed by ten students, typically it also includes art, or more specifically, Gyotaku, which is an old Japanese fisherman’s tradition of drying a fish then covering it with sumi ink made from charcoal to transfer to rice paper.

    One year a company donated a larger fish to the class and the final piece was auctioned off at a school fundraiser with each student providing their own version of an artist’s stamp – their thumbprint.

    The artwork still hangs in the living room of the family that purchased it.

    When asked why he makes time to participate in the group activity with young students, Earley jokes, “It’s how we get our science disciples; we start them early.”

    “It feeds directly into our internship programs that go from high school to college interns to professors. The more science interest we get out there to students, the better for the Center. We get to cultivate young, local talent with kids who are interested in science. Also, there is a huge drain in terms of the number of kids going into sciences,” he continues. “Anything I can do to get my disciples early I think the better off we all are.”

    A sentiment that also motivates Szalay.

    “Getting kids interested in science at a young age cannot be overstated,” Szalay reiterated. “It’s about letting kids know that cutting open a fish, getting your hands dirty by touching it, and asking questions is science. It doesn’t have to be this overarching thing that is so inaccessible. Science is accessible if you ask questions. To me that’s what [Earley’s] experience with the kids does, it makes science accessible. It’s really special.”



    Date Taken: 04.24.2020
    Date Posted: 05.08.2020 22:36
    Story ID: 369626
    Location: SAN DIEGO, CA, US 

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