High School

Dahlias + Rockets = A Creatively Curious Life

Nature of Science Bridges Professionalism & Passion

Nature of ScienceBob Goss is 89. For the bulk of his career he was a busy, probably geeky, and very accomplished NASA aeronautical engineer. Solving problems, testing limits, thinking scientifically & creatively were the hallmarks of his professional life. These components of the nature of science (NOS) filled his working days. They also fueled his passion: growing & breeding dahlias.

With hindsight, it’s easy to see Bob lived & breathed the nature of science; he didn’t have to get paid to apply it. Just as for NASA, he used clever, organized, and creative approaches – and patience –  to breed a new type of award-winning dahlia, the Vicki. Named for his daughter, this hybrid of a cactus dahlia & other vicki dahliadahlia pods grows 8′ tall and supports up to eight 10″ yellow blooms. Bob had to do hundreds of crosses to get a tuber that was both viable and beautiful. He was doing science in his spare time and loving it! For Bob’s full story see this article in The Gazette.

But first, consider these options for helping your students explore how the nature of science can carry them far in both professional and personal pursuits:

  • Ask students to interview a ‘senior’ adult (age 55+, if possible) about their 3 biggest career achievements and their 3 biggest personal hobby achievements. This should include asking what – if any – skills or underlying motivators supported both kinds of achievement. Students should present to the class 2-minute capsule summaries of the interview (video or audio clips welcome!). Presentations should include student analysis of how the personal & professional pursuits were linked – was NOS involved? How?
  • Have students go to Facebook pages or job boards for any professional society that represents one of their interests (e.g. American Society of Plant Biologists). Ask them to find a job listing that appeals to them. Students then explain (oral, written, graphic) how this job could serve both their professional and personal interests. Their response must feature 3+ key NOS elements that will bridge both kinds of interests.
  • Have students read NSTA’s position statement on the Nature of Science. For each bullet point in the statement they should:
    • Rate its relevancy to their experience (e.g. 1 = N/A…3 = neurtal…5 = personality trait).
    • Give 1-2 examples of how the topic has affected them to date.
    • Set an education or experience goal based on the bullet point topic. Label the goal as  ‘profession,’ ‘passion,’ or ‘both’ and explain the label selection.
    • Consider: Does NOS apply only to careers or hobbies with obvious STEM connections? What about STEAM, where the A is Art?

Finally, consider this diagram:
career passion

Ask students to ponder how profession, passion, and purpose
can and should overlap in their lives.

P.S. Don’t get derailed by the ‘you get paid for it’ component. A pursuit that allows you to eat & have shelter becomes a sustainable purpose.

Image credits:
NOS diagram: http://undsci.berkeley.edu/
Dahlia: hortiplex.gardenweb.com
Purpose diagram: https://www.facebook.com/MeetAnais
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