The value of “fluffy” stuff

December 16, 2020, 9:23AMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

You know the old saying that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach? Well, I say anyone thinking that way should be kept far away from students!

In my time at Argonne National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory, I worked with incredible scientists and engineers doing cutting-edge research. Unfortunately, making progress in research is not always conducive to the education and training of those who haven’t yet gained the necessary expertise. And there is an interesting phenomenon that occurs the more one gains in education and experience: We tend to forget what we were like before, what it was like not to know everything we do now. More than one of my PhD colleagues at the national labs dismissed the education and outreach efforts that I pursued in my spare time: scouts, K-12 classroom visits, teacher workshops, science expos, etc., viewing any focus other than the truly technical as just “fluffy” and a waste of valuable time and effort.

In this issue of Nuclear News, the emphasis is on education. Students from all over the world come to the United States to attend our quality universities. But we all know that a student’s interest in science and engineering is ignited long before post-secondary education. We cannot underestimate the value of K-12 education. Most people leaving high school don’t go on to study engineering and science, but they do go on to raise families, pay taxes, and vote for government officials that impact energy policy. Why would we not want to raise the nuclear knowledge quotient of every single student?

Working with Discovery Education and the Department of Energy, ANS over the past few years has developed a wealth of K-12 curriculum materials called Navigating Nuclear. These materials are available at no cost to educators and truly engage teachers and students. The hard development work has been done, and although there has been adoption, now we need to focus on getting Nuclear in Every Classroom.

As a nuclear professional, you can play an important role in promoting Navigating Nuclear in your local area and serving as a resource. With so much remote education now, you can even expand your reach far beyond local. Educating the next generation is anything but fluff, so please check out the materials at Navigating Nuclear and spread the word!—Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar, ANS President

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