MA '95, Science Education
After Jennifer Adams graduated from NYU with a master's in Secondary Science Education, she taught at South Shore High School in Brooklyn and also worked as a field instructor and developed curriculum for Outward Bound, an adventure education program for youth and adults. "Outward Bound is all about experiential learning, and I enjoyed exploring that aspect of education." In September 2000, Adams became the Curriculum Specialist for the Professional Development Programs at the American Museum of Natural History. "I've always wanted to work at the museum. I grew up in Brooklyn and when I was a child my father used to bring me here. I remember seeing the dinosaurs, going to the planetarium, and being able to weigh myself on the moon. The museum has always fascinated me."
What does your position at the AmericanMuseum of Natural History entail?
Historically the museum has had a mission to educate the public, both students and teachers. Mainly what I do is professional development with teachers. I run workshops so that they can learn ways to use the museum to teach Life, Earth or Space Sciences. I plan the workshops so that teachers have the opportunity to learn science content from scientists, as well as museum teaching pedagogy from experienced museum educators. For example, if they wanted to learn about systematics, which is a term used for the scientific classification of organisms based on their evolutionary relationships, they would take a workshop here and learn from a scientist doing that kind of work. They'd then learn ways to apply this knowledge to their curriculum so that they could teach it to their students. Working at the museum is great because it allows me to be involved in a variety of education related projects. I'm an instructor in our "distance learning" program, which is a series of online, science-content courses for educators. I also co-produce an online magazine, Musings, for teachers about using museums and other informal spaces for teaching and learning.
Where did your interest in science education begin?
My mother is from Jamaica and when we visited our relatives there I enjoyed walking through the "bush" and observing all the different types of animals and plants. Locally, we had family outings to parks in upstate New York and Long Island beaches, where I was fond of hiking. These experiences made me curious about nature and how it works and people's relationship to it, which led to my interest in science. As for teaching, originally I thought it would be a temporary gig. But once I got into it, I found I enjoyed it. It's a constantly challenging vocation: you always have to be aware and in tune with the needs of your students, both educationally and personally. Also, teaching gave me the opportunity to always learn more, be it about the subject that I was teaching, or just dealing with different people. So I put my interest in teaching together with my interest in science and here I am.
How did your time at NYU prepare you for your life today?
I was at NYU as part of the Teacher Opportunity Corps program, whose mission was to get underrepresented groups involved in science teaching, and to get teachers who were already teaching in the field into a masters program so that they could be licensed. TOC was worthwhile because it gave me a quality teacher-education experience at a top university, the opportunity to meet and network with colleagues and professors, and the confidence to continue to pursue higher learning opportunities. I was also a Sterling Winthrop fellow while at NYU, which gave me the wonderful opportunity to do a summer externship at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. I got to meet fellow educators, some of whom I'm still in touch with. Above all, NYU was a good intellectual environment and I continue to hone and use what I learned there as I further my career in education.