Anita Franks has been an active member of PISEC since she and her children began participating in Families Exploring Science Together (FEST). Soon after, she became the PISEC representative for the Imani Education Circle Charter School, a PISEC CBO partner. Later, as the leader of the Falomi Club of Campfire USA, Anita brought her group to PISEC events, both workshops and larger events. She later became a science ambassador and then a mentor in the CASE program, and continues to be an active PISEC participant.

Takeaway Message from Anita Franks:

The neat part about PISEC is that you have the opportunity to have people from your neighborhood to come out to you and do these hands-on science workshops. When you get a chance to get your hands dirty, you can sometimes have the experience of feeling things or seeing things or smelling things that are different and really understanding the science around you. You have a chance to do all of this good fun stuff with your children. So while you're learning, they're learning and having school, while having fun. Sometimes you get a chance to go to the museums just for fun or for an event and workshops.

Anita Franks and her family began their PISEC activity, starting with Project Pigeon Watch from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. They also took part in an Egyptian Mummy event.

We did workshops at the Aquarium, the Zoo, The Franklin Institute, and The Academy of Natural Sciences—all four museums. We went to those events and then we did the projects...One we did with The Academy of Natural Sciences was an event with the pharaohs from Egypt. I can't remember all the events, because we did so many...Most of them I did as both a family, and bringing Campfire children when their parents could not bring them.

Intrigued by her experiences in previous PISEC programs, Anita became a CASE ambassador, representing the Campfire CBO.

I was sitting in a meeting and I said, "Hmm...This looks like a good fit for Campfire." I always knew that anyway, because the PISEC programs involve families. I enjoy science, and I like passing information on to a child. I thought it would be a good fit for me and my families.

[Ambassadors need] patience, flexibility, commitment, time, and dedication. Even if you know things, you share the opportunity. Every time we go into a training session, we learn something that we never knew.

I never had a full understanding of rocks, and I knew that. [Then PISEC] taught me how to present the "Rock around the Clock" workshop, having all three rocks in my hand and talking about those rocks and examining them with a magnifying glass and then going through that whole process. No one had ever explained that there were just three different kinds of rocks, period...I feel more comfortable in saying, "I know that." And I can tell you that, if a rock hits a certain [temperature], it's going to...melt and that this is going to happen to it, and it's going to become this. And it was like a "wow" moment for me...all of us just about had the same experience.

For Anita, the experience of being a CASE ambassador was transformative. Not only did she gain a better knowledge of the science behind the workshops, but she also gained a new understanding of the purpose of museums and the work of museum professionals.

One of the skills is being able to learn more information and being able to pass that information on. The other is being a resource person. I didn't know that there were live animals in museums, and I've seen behind the scenes. These are more things that will help children to open up to adults, and I'm able to pass that information on to students and even their parents. [I tell them,] "You like to do that, so maybe think about going into this field, or that field, or the other."...[I've become a] resource person; I can open up the museums for them and the world for that matter...It's keeping me fresh [and]...I'm able to stay on top of what's going on. You know, we've had a chance to meet Jane Goodall and other scientists through this.

Anita also found that PISEC programs were changing the way children and parents viewed one another. By working together toward concrete goals, family members had a chance to think of themselves as a team and to think of one another as valued team members.

Looking at families, seeing them discover one another for the first time and the respect children all of a sudden have in that "aha" moment: "Oh, my mother's not a dummy, my father's not a dummy, or my big brother—Oh, he does know something; and even the little person—she does have some information, and they can do it, and I need to be able to let them do it," that kind of "aha."

A third-grade group involved with FEST had gone to the Aquarium, and the [workshop leader] had done a thing around polar bears and the Arctic and the Antarctic, and they made dioramas. The teacher said they could take the dioramas to be displayed at an event at The Academy of Natural Sciences and the parents were so proud. The dioramas were 4really neat. The children were standing up there talking about various things that were going on in the dioramas, and the parents were standing up there talking. It was just like, "Oh wow—we got it going on!" and they were giving high fives and it was a neat thing to watch. In that very moment there was a father there, and he looked down at his son and he said, "Wow!" And that's it; it was just a wild moment to see that!

Kala, Anita's daughter, also gained a great deal from the PISEC programs. Over the years, she went from being a young participant to taking a serious leadership role. Not only did the experience build her science knowledge, but it also provided her with role models and confidants who could help her think through her career goals.

Once we became part of FEST we were able to really go to the museums more and to be involved with scientists and to be involved with those who work at those places and to be able to sit and talk with a different level. had that level of opportunity to go to the museums more often and have a diversity of museums in one year. [PISEC] helped her really solidify the field she really wanted to go into, and that is very good, because being a veterinarian is very serious business and it's hard...getting into the field; it's hard studying. Is this really what she wants to do, because of the time and money involved. And I was able to put her out there to see whether she was going to really hang with this, whether this is really what she wanted. Playing with dogs and cats got her thinking this is what she's into. She went to [PISEC staff], and that helped her even more.

An enjoyable memory was just going to the workshops and working with [my daughter] as an ambassador. She was working with me, versus for me, so that that changed the dynamics of our relationship. It was a good thing, because each time she [presented a program], I knew she knew her stuff.

Overall, Anita sees PISEC programs as being all about family. And that, she says, makes it a tremendously valuable resource, both for her family and for many others.

They always keep, at their focal point, parents and families. It's often easier for organizations to run programs when the children are there, and not necessarily parents, but PISEC itself has never [done that], because that could actually pull the program apart. But it's always been families, and I think as a group we really see the importance of family and family involvement.

It's been fun, it's been a good project and a good ride and I hope we continue, because as far as science programs are don't think you're making any headway, but you see little bit by little bit that you really are.