By day, Susan Howard is a study coordinator for Covance Laboratories, Inc. in Madison, Wisconsin. But after school, she develops engaging science activities for an afterschool academic program at Hawthorne Elementary School.
Q: Tell us about the program you work with.
I have collaborated with Nancy Lanyon, a 4th and 5th grade teacher at Hawthorne. We’ve had a couple of different formats. One consisted of students who were nominated by their classroom teachers and who applied to be in the afterschool science club. More recently, Nancy has been responsible for an afterschool academic remediation math program, and we incorporated a day of science into this program each week.
Q: Why did you decide to get involved with this program?
I was invited to do a Science Night presentation, and Nancy and I discovered how well we collaborate. I also have passions for science, young people and learning.
Q: What do you do as a volunteer?
I develop the activities and assemble the required materials.
Q: How much time do you spend volunteering?
2-5 hours per week, depending on whether the activity is an established one or a new one.
Q: What's the most fulfilling part about volunteering with the afterschool program?
Watching the creativity and “spark” as the students grasp a concept or develop a new experiment.
Q: What's the most challenging part?
Predicting the amount of time needed for preparation, especially with new activities.
Q: What advice would you give to other professionals thinking about volunteering with an afterschool program?
Go for it! It’s amazingly rewarding, and for me, at least, has renewed my love of science.
Q: What advice would you give to young people about studying STEM?
Don’t limit yourself, and if you’re passionate about something, find a way to pursue it. Look for mentors, teachers, classes and even be willing to work independently.