Kim Johnson joined the PISEC program during FEST as part of the Imani Education Circle Charter School, and later became an "ambassador" for the Campfire Program. When Kim began her involvement with the program, she was a certified teacher working with second graders. A growing interest in science, nurtured through PISEC, led her to additional certification in middle-school science, and she is now teaching science to grades K-8.
Watching us present workshops together gave participating families a different experience, seeing a husband-and-wife team, from the community doing science with them. Our interactions sometimes, [laughing] had comical moments. They got to see the interplay between our personalities.
Kim's children include a 24-year-old daughter, who helped out with the workshops until she went away to college and graduate school. Three younger sons, aged 23, 16, and 13, have all been involved with PISEC from an early age. Kim says:
Kim believes the PISEC program played a role in her children's decision-making process.
My children have always liked science, but now the museums have become like second homes to them. They know their way around the museums. They're comfortable with the museums. They've even asked me if they can go to museums with their buddies.
Kim and her family began attending a few FEST events toward the end of the program, at the invitation of another active PISEC participant. The FEST experience intrigued the Johnsons, and they decided to take a more active role in the PISEC process. When the opportunity arose, both Kim and her husband became CASE ambassadors.
I became a CASE ambassador because of my love of science and because this was an opportunity to expose families to science in a different way. You need to love people and children. You need to have a sense of humor and be a good student, because in order to present the workshops, you have to be a student to first learn the workshops. When I said, "Be a good student," I don't mean a good student in the sense of really good with books. I mean be willing to learn and really absorb the things that you.re going to be sharing when you present the workshops.
Kim's involvement with PISEC programs gave her the confidence and skills she needed to work toward certification as a middle-school science teacher.
Since I became a CASE ambassador, I am now a full-time science teacher at Khepra Charter School, and I recently passed my state exam to be certified to teach middle-school science. I definitely think, along with the study that I have done on my own, that my experiences and my exposure through the CASE program helped me in passing that exam.
An unexpected outcome of Kim's involvement in CASE was her own children's newfound excitement about science and science museums. She also found that she became a science learning ambassador outside of PISEC.
I've made many connections with families. Families come and ask me about things that don't necessarily have anything to do with CASE or don't necessarily have anything to do with my capacity for instructing their children. But they feel comfortable. We've developed a rapport and they feel comfortable with coming to me to ask me things or to seek information that they may not feel comfortable asking anyone else in the school. I got much more than I expected from working with CASE.
For Kim, one of PISEC's most appealing attributes is its lack of cost. There is no charge for families to take part. As a result, she has personally seen many African American families choose to attend PISEC events and, by so doing, discover the excitement of science.
The parents and the children would be so excited to get to go to the museums, because a lot of the families that I work with are what would be considered Title 1, or low-income families. And it's just not in their budget to go to museumsyou know they can't afford the admission fee. And then you're talking about multiple childrenyou know it makes it really hard. So, to see them out at the museumsI really enjoyed that. The parents and the families often let me know that they really enjoyed the multi-pass1.
Kim believes that the design of CASE workshops, combined with community-based ambassadors, encourages family learning. She is also impressed by the real-world relevance of many PISEC activities. Over time, she says, attendees begin to feel a sense of ownership and connection when they come to the science museums.
I like the fact that the workshops are geared towards science as fun. They cover the entire age spectrum, so if you have toddlers, there are things for toddlers to do; if you have your seniors and grandparents, there are also activities for them to do. I like the fact that we bring them to the community. The community doesn't have to go somewhere outside of the community for the workshops. You know, they're in their school or in their recreation center or in their church, somewhere where they're comfortable and somewhere where they feel ownership. I think it helps because it keeps them in their comfort zone. And they feel like they're coming into their homes as opposed to them going somewhere foreign that they're not familiar with.
Kim's children, exposed to family-based informal science learning on a regular basis, have expanded upon that interest. One attended a science camp; another won a top prize at a science fair.
One of my sons went to archaeology camp at the University of Pennsylvania. The same son went to a summer camp at the Aquarium, and this summer he went to an architecture camp. So, he's been doing science every summer. Even the son that is the business major, he actually won first place in a science fair. He built a model soundproof room and tested it with different materials to see which was the best soundproofing. And he actually won first place. I have noticed their interest in science has picked up. My youngest son actually told me that, on one of the state tests, he believes he did so well because of things that he learned in the CASE workshops.
Kim explains that the African American community tends not to think of museums as destinations. Through PISEC programs, however, many African American families she knows have started to think of museums for fun as much as for learning.
Even though I love science, my involvement with the museums may have been once, maybe twice a year going to visit a museum. And the museum world, really, in the African American community is not something that we really utilize. We really don't take advantage of museums, and the other cultural things that are here in Philadelphia.
1. The multi-pass is good for up to 6 people to visit any of the four PISEC museums. Each community organization receives two multi-passes per month that families can borrow.