An Interview Series: Discussing Science at Latin with Mrs. Schmadeke

What does science mean to you? It means thinking, discovery, process. It means understanding the world we live in, and discovering why we know what we know, and how we know what we know. Why is it important to teach in school? It is important to understand the complexity of the world, at every level. For example, AP Enviro. If you think about our current crisis of climate change. You need to understand how all of these pieces come together to create this crisis. Think about the Carbon Cycle and Nitrogen Cycle, you need to know the chemistry of how Nitrogen is converted from atmospheric form to nitrogen in plants, and how we then rely on these sources of Nitrogen. It is all one big interconnectedness. Going back to your question about why we should teach science, it comes down to understanding the physical, chemical and biological worlds. The basis of this is discovering how we know what we know. It’s a way of critical thinking and analyzing that you can use in any workplace. You can transfer it to any discipline. There is an innate skill you learn from a science class. How did you become interested in the sciences, and why biology in particular? I think I became interested in Biology when I started to learn about how the human body works outside of the basic anatomy and physiology and started to get into how our cells actually work. I realized there’s a whole other world of molecules working together and talking to each other that then transfers into an amazing process. I think I was really drawn to by biology because of the little details. What do you enjoy about teaching science at Latin? I enjoy my colleagues in the Science Department most, as we talk through what we teach and how teach it. I’m constantly challenged to think about my classes in different ways because of the people around me. I love the facilities as well.  I love the students, you guys are, like the teachers, constantly challenging me  to think about things in different ways. You guys are always doing that too. I think that’s why I like teaching at Latin. What do you think could be improved about the sciences at Latin? I think we’ve done a really good job with the curriculum change (?). Now, I think that student have a greater appreciation for the processes of science, and they’re getting to practice these processes in the three core sciences. I think it would be really fun to continue thinking about how our curriculum overlaps. For instance I think of energy. I think it would be fun to delve into what energy means in three different ways. It would be interesting to align the courses so that we can make sure that these core principles that we think are important can get covered. What I’m trying to say is that it would be worth our while to be more worth our while to be more intentional in how we cover core topics in each of the sciences. Like a sort of vertical alignment. What do you see going forward for the Science Department? It’s a funny year with Mr. Coberly being Upper School Director, but it’s an interim position, so it’s just year long. So I look at my position as Interim Head of the Science Department as a way to keep doing what we’re doing. I think that, again, we do a really good job. I think our electives are really diverse and cover a lot of topics. Next year we’re going to have organic chemistry. I think there are also a lot of other fun electives that are in the pipeline. Thinking about our electives more is where I see us going. I would really like to see more Senior Projects that are science-focused and rely on independent research. I think there is a place for that, and exploring that in the department would be good too.]]>