In March, the University of Florida Thompson Earth Systems Institute Scientist in Every Florida School program, or SEFS, coordinated its 500th classroom visit to schools in Palm Beach County. Since 2019, SEFS has worked as a sort of matchmaker for teachers looking to bring working researchers into their classrooms.
Any public school teacher in Florida can request a scientist for free through the program. Then, the SEFS team works to find a scientist who has the expertise that matches the teacher’s goals and learning standards they want to cover during the visit.
During a scientist visit, K-12 students connect with science role models to learn about exciting new research beyond what is found in most textbooks. The scientists may lead the class in a hands-on activity, or simply answer questions and discuss their career journey.
Palm Beach County was one of the original five target counties where the program was initially piloted, along with Alachua, Escambia, Lee, and Seminole. It has since expanded statewide. Participating scientists must have a research focus related to Earth systems science — the study of the interactions among air, water, land, and life — which is in line with TESI’s mission to advance public understanding of environmental issues.
“Palm Beach County schools have played an active role in the SEFS program over the last few years and the partnerships and collaborations within the county have been integral to this success,” said Stephanie Killingsworth, K-12 Education and Outreach Coordinator for SEFS.
The 500th visit was in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club of Martin County and Prime Time Palm Beach County, an organization that has partnered with SEFS for its “Meet a Scientist” series since 2020.
According to Killingsworth, “It’s the ongoing programming like Meet a Scientist with Prime Time of Palm Beach County and the Boys and Girls Club of Martin County that has been able to provide K-12 students with constant connections to Florida scientists and their research.”
This visit, titled “Motion in the Ocean,” featured Maria Josefina Olascoaga, an associate professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. In a 30-minute livestream, Olascoaga helped 236 K-8 students learn about ocean currents, transport, and mixing.
“Since partnering with SEFS, thousands of youth have been able to meet and chat with ‘real’ scientists to offer a first-hand look into what their jobs are like from day-to-day,” said Patricia Sasson, STEAM Professional Development Specialist at Prime Time Palm Beach County.
“These free opportunities show students how science connects to their community while inspiring them to consider a world of new possibilities.”
Interested teachers can find out more information by contacting Stephanie Killingsworth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To request a classroom or county-wide visit with a scientist, visit: bit.ly/RequestScientist
For more information about the “Scientist in Every Florida School Project,” visit: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/earth-systems/scientist-in-every-florida-school/