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.

For Kim, PISEC is a family affair. Her husband also became a CASE ambassador, and they enjoy giving workshops together. Says Kim:

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:

My two youngest sons have both decided when they graduate from high school to pursue science careers. One of them wants to be a doctor and the other wants to be chemist.

Kim believes the PISEC program played a role in her children's decision-making process.

Takeaway Message from Kim Johnson:

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 going to be sharing when you present the workshops.

I have always been confident and comfortable in front of groups and in front of crowds, but I think my level of confidence and comfort has changed or evolved. I think I actually make the individuals that I am working with also feel comfortable.

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.

I guess for the average person, they would have needed to take some courses, but taking courses on my own, and again, being involved with the CASE program and learning in-depth science on about 32 topics—now, that's a large background in science.

Leading the CASE workshops is different from working in the classroom. In a classroom, most of our instruction, even in the lab is test-driven. You know, you only have a certain amount of time to cover a certain amount of material over the course of a school year. With the CASE workshops it's really hands-on, so the learning is fun as opposed to passing a test. And the structure of the workshops—it's just really different. They address all age levels, because we don't know if we are going to have toddlers; we don't know if we are going to have grandparents. So we have to cover the whole scope.

I've used some of the techniques I learned from CASE in the classroom. And I've used the creativity that I have been exposed to from CASE workshops to help to shape my lessons for those students that learn in different ways. Some of our students are more kinesthetic or hands-on learners, and some of them just need other ways of learning and the CASE workshops provide that, more than your traditional classroom lessons would. So I definitely draw from the CASE workshops.

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 museums—you know they can't afford the admission fee. And then you're talking about multiple children—you know it makes it really hard. So, to see them out at the museums—I really enjoyed that. The parents and the families often let me know that they really enjoyed the multi-pass1.

Our own family probably got the most out of visiting the Aquarium. I think that the first time that we went to the Aquarium was probably an "ooh, ahh" moment for our family. I think when we saw the large tank that had the divers in it was the best moment for us. I had one girl and three boys, and I think my boys really, really got a kick out of that. And whenever we got ready to go to the museums early on, they were always like, "Aw, do we have to go?" but once we would get involved in the activity, then their tone would change.

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.

Community ambassadors—these are folks directly out of the community...out of your local organization, someone that you can see walking down the street or in the supermarket or in the laundromat. Ambassadors...are the liaison between the science world and the community. And science exploration [is] taking science out of that framework of just being something in the textbook, or something in the classroom, or even being something on TV, [to] being something that you can apply to your everyday life. One of the things about the CASE workshops: every workshop had some type of application that you could see in your real life. There was something that tied it into something that you could relate to.

When we did Kitchen Chemistry, families enjoyed the fact that when you bake a cake, you're dealing with chemistry. Of course, they loved the closing part when we put the Mentos in the soda, you know, and the children, the adults—everyone—got to see the reaction. We worked with vinegar and baking soda, and we worked with lemon juice and baking soda...these are things that are in your household every could repeat this demonstration at home. And most folks have done baking soda and vinegar, but to feel that one of the mixtures gets cold and the other one gets hot, it's taking it a little bit further, but it's not something that you have to be in a laboratory to experience.

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.

It's not that I feel that the museums are an aloof group. I think it's more of a cultural thing, that in the African American community, to most of us, visiting a museum is something you do in school, on a class trip. It's usually not a part of family activities or family outings, with the exception of the Zoo. I think most of the African American community does frequent the Zoo, but the other museums, we don't really think of them as something that would hold any interest for us.

[PISEC] has made a difference in other families, and I think it has opened up the doors to other museums also. I didn't used to go to The Franklin Institute, and I didn't visit the Aquarium before, and I've visited those places and oh, they're wonderful places. Well, how about trying out the Art Museum, or the Atwater Kent Museum, or let's go visit the Liberty Bell. We've done all those things, and so have many other families we met through PISEC.

Now, every time I hear about some type of science activity, if I'm able to get to it, I get to it. I am taking four sixth-grade girls, this Saturday, to the Women Chemists Conference at Chestnut Hill College. This is for sixth-grade girls only. I'm constantly searching the Internet for what type of activities and events are out there, and just to learn more about science interactions that I don't already know about.

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.