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Blog: Science Helped Me Learn to Love Middle Schoolers

08 November 2014
Published in Science and Society
Written by  Johanna Varner

A decade ago, I would have NEVER believed that I would write the following words, but here they are: I love working with 7th graders! My twenty-something self would have further cringed at the idea of leading dozens of boisterous middle schoolers through quiet mountain landscapes. And yet, here I am, traipsing across alpine boulder fields with 60 of my closest 7th grade friends.

So, how did I get here? When I began really thinking about inaction on CO2 emissions, I realized there was a disconnect between understanding that climate change is happening on an abstract level and viscerally feeling as though one has experienced its effects. Climate change can often feel as though it will happen in a distant place at a future time. I decided that we needed a better way to connect policy makers and voters with the changes happening today.

Digging deeper, I learned that close connections with science and nature are often forged in those terrifying, but formative, middle school years. Still wincing at the thought of addressing a room full of 13 year olds, I participated in a K-12 teaching fellowship as a first-year graduate student. Fortunately, I was paired with two fantastic teachers at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education who taught me how not-scary 7th graders actually are. In fact, they are a rare group that has enough knowledge to tackle real science, yet retains their youthful, energetic curiosity about the natural world.

Read more of Johanna Varner's blog on the Union of Concerned Scientists website

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