Serena Spearman started in PISEC before the CASE program and then became a CASE ambassador. Her interest began when she realized it would be possible to offer community members low-cost access to PISEC museums. Since those early days, Serena and her family have become increasingly involved with PISEC. Today, she says, PISEC has changed her life.

Takeaway Message from Serena Spearman:

What makes CASE different is that you have a whole community of families that are involved. With CASE, your family members—aunt, uncles, and grand mom are there—and it's also neighbors and people that are just in the community, and storeowners find out. They're able to donate sometimes, like a snack for the children, so I think that it is bringing our community together.

When Serena joined PISEC, her interest was in access to local attractions. Over time, she discovered the value of involving whole families in learning science.

When I first got involved with PISEC, I thought it was great to get a pass and be able to distribute it to families in the community, because the community that I live in is mainly low, low income. A lot of the children are not exposed to the museums unless it's on a field trip with their school. And a lot of the schools have cut the field trips out. So, a lot of them had never been inside of the museums or the Zoo or the Aquarium, so it's been an enriching experience for the community.

I like my team that I work with, and how we're able to get the program and the lesson to the families in a cooperative way as a team. I like the way the children look forward to us giving them the workshop. And I like working with all the PISEC leaders.

We took a day trip out to one of the state parks. And several of the children that attended CASE were able to label the trees [as a result of a] tree workshop in June, I think, so that was one of those teachable moments. That was really, like, "Aw, man! It's working!" The children really pick up different things. Like they'll see some cubs, and they'll say, "Oh, we can tell what they ate!" I just think that has really helped our children to advance in science.

Serena's entire family has benefited from involvement with PISEC programs.

Everyone participates. Because my husband helps get out the kit, my daughter helps transport things when needed, and my grandchildren are making sure everything takes place. And so we're all involved in CASE. From CASE, my grandson was able to attend his first year in a science exploration program here at The Franklin Institute. And it really helped. It has paid off.

In the past, we'd probably just go out to dinner. Sometimes we'd venture out to the museums, but not a lot because it was just too expensive. Now that we're involved with CASE, though, we actually rent buses out to bring families into the special CASE events at the museums.

To make it possible to participate in CASE, I manage my time a little differently, you know, trying to take out time to put something special into the CASE workshops. I like to take it a little farther. So say we're working on sea life. Then I'm going to try to go to the pet store and buy some kind of fish or sea life, something, I'm going to make some kind of T-shirts or aprons or something that, when the children look at you, they're going to say, "Oh, okay. I recognize that." You know, so I always try to take our workshops and go the extra mile.

Serena sees PISEC programs as a way to connect an entire community of families all of whom have a special interest in learning. As they attend more programs, families become more invested and connected to PISEC and to one another.

I get really excited about the preparation, how the children are going to react to certain things. I definitely have started taking pictures and just keeping some documentation of what we're doing, and I put myself in it so that the children can get the most out of it.

Over time, the children started talking about things that we went over in the workshops, and parents have been asking, "Is something coming up?" They've been asking me, you know, "Are we doing anything?" "What's going on?" My favorite thing about being an ambassador is just being involved with the communities, families, and the community. I really enjoy that.

Serena believes that a good CASE ambassador needs patience and a willingness to learn and to share. By bringing those qualities to the project, she has succeeded in making a difference to the community and to herself.

I think the quality you need as an ambassador is patience. You don't have to be knowledgeable about science—you don't need that—but you need to have the will to want to learn new things and share them [to] have a quality of sharing and just being able to know that everyone is different. You're going to run into a lot of different attitudes and things. You need the quality just to be patient and be able to deal with a lot of different things, because there's always a surprise.

I think all of my team had these qualities when they came. I think they have grown and the qualities have just gotten better since working with the communities, because now, we're able to jump right in anywhere and do our workshops. When I first started, I thought, "Man, now I can teach science, be some kind of, like, science teacher," and yes, I've gotten that out of it, I really have learned new ways in teaching things. I think I'm kind of talented in making a special moment for the children. I think being in CASE has really brought out more of that talent in me.