When a Washington, D.C., elementary school needed volunteers to speak with its students about careers in science, Denise Freeman jumped at the chance.
Freeman, a senior advisor and communications liaison for the Office of Legacy Management (LM), represented LM at the Department of Energy-sponsored STEM Expo at John Burroughs Elementary School in early June. The school is geared toward Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics education.
Volunteers included federal employees, fellows, and interns from multiple DOE offices, including LM, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, the Office of Nuclear Energy, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory.
“I really like that the three offices were able to come together as one DOE — one team, one mission,” Freeman said. “It was a great DOE collaborative effort, and I look forward to many more.”
Participation in the event was an easy choice, Freeman said.
“As a Washingtonian and product of DC Public Schools, I thought this was a great way to give back to a community that has given so much to me and has played a key role in shaping me into the person I am today,” she said.
Organizers hoped the event would inspire a new generation of STEM professionals. Volunteers brought hands-on activities for students in pre-K through fifth grade. Freeman knows it’s not always easy to hold the attention of kids that age. Because their thinking is more visual than abstract, she believes a show-and-tell approach is most effective.
“So, we use on-hand demonstration activities and experiments, along with a tool for learning like our STEM with LM magnifying glasses to view objects on a larger scale,” she said. “And then giveaways are always a winner with both kids and adults.”
Part of DC Public Schools, John Burroughs is a STEM school, which integrates STEM disciplines throughout the curriculum instead of teaching them as separate subjects. Nearly 300 of the school’s students attended this year’s STEM Expo.
“The experience was truly fulfilling in that I was able to speak with the students and ask them about science, their future careers, and what they liked most about science,” Freeman said. “I loved their honesty most of all.”
When one student told Freeman he was unsure what he wanted to be when he grew up, Freeman encouraged him and replied, “That is absolutely fine — you have time to figure it out.”