Interview with science teacher Shelly Tyre

Clarence interviews science teacher Shelly Tyre. Please hug your local STEM instructor.

Red-Headed Mule: You’re a science teacher, correct? As a child, what attracted you to science in general?

ShellyShelly Tyre: I am a science teacher, even though I never really planned to do this. I was always interested in science, I think because all children are naturally curious about the world around them.

The key thing for me was that my parents, especially my father, took the time to actually help me discover the answers to those questions. This was a really empowering lesson – that you could have questions about your world, but that you could also try to find the answers.

I also found that knowing the reasoning behind natural phenomena (like why the sky is blue, or how rainbows are made) made those phenomena even more amazing than they already were.

RHM: How many students do you teach currently?

ST: Right now I have about 50 students in all, between the ages of 11-19. I’m quite lucky as a teacher, because most of my students, especially the older ones, are quite interested in science. It’s rewarding when we do something new in class and I get the “Woah!” effect.

RHM: Who were your main influences in the field of science?

ST: My main influences have been my great teachers.

As a child I was fascinated by Marie Curie, mainly because she was the only woman scientist I knew of. As a teenager I really lost a lot of my interest in science.

However as I started university, my interest in science was rekindled. I was surrounded by others who found it interesting, and I had a few professors who were really enthusiastic about their subjects.

This enthusiasm wears off on the students (in this case me), and inspires a fascination with the world and a passion for learning. Also, the popularizers of science who really go out there and communicate the amazing things that happen within the sciences. People like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan. These people are/were able to demonstrate the beauty, simplicity and power of science.

RHM: Have you seen Symphony of Science videos? Do you think it’s effective in getting the words of Sagan, Feynman, etc. out to an audience unexposed to the wonders of science?

ST: I have seen the symphony of science videos, and I think it’s definitely worth exposing the general population to Sagan, Feynman, and to Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is the modern scientist filling a similar role the other 2 once filled.

These men were passionate about science, but also about communicating the wonder of it to other people. I think their enthusiasm is inspiring, and I believe that has a big effect on getting an average person to pay attention to what’s going on around them.


RHM: What’s the rarest natural phenomena you’ve seen?

ST: Rarest natural phenomena? That’s quite a difficult question. I’ve seen meteor shows, interesting weather phenomena, planets in the sky. I’m not sure which is the most rare. The most awe-inspiring thing I’ve seen was when I first saw the Grand Canyon. Just the scale of it, and knowing that you are looking into a slice of the Earth’s history, was breath-taking.

Bighorn ewe
Ewe looking at the Grand Canyon?
Pic by Marcin Wichary

RHM: Who’s is your favorite out of Mr. Wizard, Bill Nye, & Beakman?

ST: I would say that Bill Nye is my favorite- he’s goofy, but he’s the real deal and has quite a big influence on science outreach- from educational videos for elementary school students all the way up to testifying in front of Congress.

However, I am sentimental about Mr. Wizard as well. When I was little, my dad and I watched Mr. Wizard together, then we would try out some of the experiments ourselves. It was great fun.

Below: Mr. Wizard on video games:

RHM: If you had $10 million budget for creating a media project that entertains yet educates and instructs people, what would it be? A movie? Some sort of game?

ST: With a big media budget I would make a game. There is some really good work out there with “gamifying” education. Khan Academy is one of my favorites, both as a teacher and as a learner. I think students today expect something more interactive than just a video.

RHM: What are your thoughts on media that focuses on the paranormal like The X-Files, Supernatural, or Fringe?

ST: I personally am not very interested in shows that deal with the paranormal, they’ve just never really triggered my imagination. I find the real world to be more fascinating, when looked at from the right angle. But I also know that others really enjoy shows like those you’ve mentioned.

I don’t have a strong opinion either way about paranormal shows, just so long as they don’t have an agenda of miseducation.

RHM: If you could meet the scientists of the 22nd century, what would you say to them?

ST: I think that the science being studied in 100 years will be very different from what we’re working on today. I think they would find it interesting to hear about some of the social obstacles current scientists have- like legal issues with stem cell research and public education of issues like climate change and evolution.

I also think they should be aware of the cause-and-effect cycle of scientific research and technological developments. There’s a historical trend of development, where we develop one thing to fix a modern problem, and there are unexpected consequences of that problem that are not revealed until several decades later.

The effects of pesticides like DDT are a prime example of this; where it takes several generations to recognize the effects of technological developments.

RHM: Any final thoughts?

ST: I think it’s a pretty exciting time to be alive- with the internet we have a massive amount of information at our fingertips, and geek culture is thriving.

There are some really neat ways of bringing education to the masses in development. Open University is one great example, as are programs like MIT’s Open Courseware. Also programs of social innovation, and the modern DIY movement (like Maker labs and hacker spaces, and programs like Kickstarter), are really expanding the opportunities available to people with the ideas and motivation.

Thanks, Shelly!

Image Credits:

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Author: Clarence

Webmaster, editor, writer of Red-Headed Mule. RHM was founded in 2011. Currently is liking British TV better than U.S. TV, mayhaps.