Meet Our Houston Regional Coordinator: Kim Ottosen

Hi! I'm Kim Ottosen, the Houston Regional Coordinator for the NSRC LASER i3 program. That's a long title for what I really do -- information hub, professional badger, and barrier reducer. In a grant this size with so many complexly integrated parts, I find myself doing things I never imagined I would do and I'll bet you do too.

Science was a part of my growing up -- my dad is a geologist and many vacations were spent looking at rock formations and searching for fossils. I still have my very first egg carton rock collection and fondly recall my first science fair project -- classifying fossil shark teeth that I picked up in the West Texas desert. As an adult, I continue to rock collect with my dad, but I found my passion in breaking down complex scientific principles into steps that elementary students could absorb and build on. I worked in Houston Independent School District as a teacher and a science specialist for 8 years. I became aware of the LASER i3 grant and was thrilled to be hired by the National Science Resources Center where my efforts can bring science education to so many.

Inquiry science is vital to HISD as an urban district. Much of our students' experience with the interaction of physics, geology, and biology in the natural world is via television and movies. School opportunities are often limited to textbook or hands-on activities that don't translate to true learning in part because of the varied population and mobility of students and teachers, coupled with budget cuts and district achievement requirements. Immersion in a great professional development program can open the world of inquiry science to teachers, giving them ways to facilitate true learning that moves children through the fundamental process of translating hands-on experiences to paper representations. This leads directly to abstract thinking about those experiences. It is imperative to allow these incredibly intelligent children the experiences that will allow their ideas and understanding to flourish and expand.

Science is the hook for a student that causes them to WANT to read, WANT to calculate, WANT to record their ideas and thoughts and discoveries. Far too many classrooms are limited to the teacher telling their students about important discoveries others have made. So many students become disengaged in learning and drop out of school either literally or mentally. Let's turn that around and give students opportunities to discover scientific principles on their own and tell US about it! If we want to create a nation of thinkers, innovators, workers, then we need to light the fire of possibility and engagement now. If we can do this, we give them the power to be and do anything they can imagine.

If you or someone you know is interested in geology and fossils be sure to check out this interactive from Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

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