Hello World, my name is Becky Schnekser, a K-5 Science Educator Explorer and field scientist from Virginia Beach, VA, USA. I am passionate about doing science whether in the depths of the Peruvian Amazon, geothermal systems of Iceland, or with my young scientists at school. Science is real, it is happening all around us--all of the time; it’s important that we as humans recognize that and take advantage of the opportunities to learn that constantly surround us.
My journey in the world of science and education can be likened to a Greek Tragedy turned Rom-Com (romantic comedy) over the course of about thirty-three years. You see, I have always loved science, especially the outdoors. Problem-solving and thinking critically about challenges is something I enjoy which is literally science and more specifically STEM and design thinking at work.
The Greek Tragedy portion of my journey came to a culmination in my third-grade classroom. I was told, based on my results after a timed multiplication test, that I was not good at math. My teacher added, “You will never be good at science either.” This was the proverbial mic drop and one that would crush me and stunt my progress as a scientist for nearly twenty-five years. I maintained “liking” science, but I lost my confidence, I lost a piece of who I was, my curiosity to learn was harmed. Through the rest of my years in school, even through college, my science and math spark would light up at random times, in a chemistry lab, in algebra class, problem-solving a piece of computer programming that wasn’t quite working correctly, but I still didn’t see myself as a scientist or someone who was good at science or math. Professors in college and other mentors were always astonished when I told them I wasn’t good at math or science and I would repeatedly turn my back to opportunities that would bring me into those fields.
What I did know for sure though, all along, is that I never wanted to be an adult, a teacher, or a mentor who told someone they weren’t good at something or that they couldn't be or do something they clearly had a passion for. I knew I wanted to encourage others to follow their passions, even if some of their skills were not quite mastered, I wanted to support their development rather than stunt it.
It took me until my 33rd year on this planet to realize that what I did for others, I did not do for myself. I remember seeking opportunities to grow as a science teacher and realizing that what I really wanted was to do science as a way to develop my own skills--so that’s exactly what I did. I wrote a grant for funding to go to the Amazon with a field team to experience field science as a contributing member of a team, rather than a passive learner immersed in textbooks and traditional classroom courses. While traditional courses and textbooks are a valid way to learn, I wholeheartedly believe that being immersed in an experience allows for authenticity in the learning of new skills and concepts.
Being in the field made me realize my own identity as a scientist and explorer. It also reignited my passion for math, science, and STEM. In that first field experience, I re-committed to being my authentic self and unapologetically pursuing my passions.