Name: Amelia Wood
Year: Third year
Major: Biological Sciences (Human Biology emphasis); Natural Sciences Education minor
What is a memorable project that you worked on during your time at UC Merced?
A memorable project I remember working on at UC Merced was through my job as a CalTeach student assistant. I added the natural sciences education (NSED) minor in my second year and started working for CalTeach about the same time. This allowed me to immerse myself in the world of teaching, learning how to work with students, how students learn and how to become a better teacher. Last summer, I had the opportunity to lead third- and fifth-grade students in several week-long classes based on STEM topics. This took place because CalTeach could not hold its annual Bobcat Summer STEM Academy in person, so we decided to do something online. My coworker and I got to design our own lesson plans, work with students and learn as we went. This opportunity allowed me to not only take on more responsibility in my job, but to learn how to be an adaptable, flexible, aware and understanding leader of a classroom. The students taught me so much, such as how to explain things differently on-the-fly, answering questions I did not think of, and learning how to explain high-school-level science topics to elementary students. This project will always be close to my heart as it was my first experience leading a classroom on my own.
What did you learn personally and academically by participating in this?
Personally, I learned how to lead a remote classroom. I learned how to design lesson plans that could be taught in one hour, lessons that went into depth but not too much. I learned how to plan activities to complete but not too many that the students felt rushed. I grew in my teaching skills and my personability. I had to connect these challenging science topics to things the students already knew or things they dealt with in daily life. This really challenged me and allowed me to grow as a person.
Academically, I connected my learning about teaching from my NSED courses into real life practice. I learned how to take what I had learned and actually use it. I had to be flexible and change the way I taught something if the students did not understand. I learned that teaching is truly something I want to pursue as a full-time career. When I began college, I was thinking of going to dental school. Now, I have (almost) completely made up my mind: I want to be a teacher. I want to inspire, I want to teach, I want to grow and learn from my students. This experience really made it clear what I am most passionate about.
UC Merced has a lot of opportunities for experiential learning. What would you say to a future student who wants to be involved?
To a future student looking to get involved at UC Merced, I’d say talk to people! Whether these people are in your classes or they are just in the dining hall, the UC Merced community is so inviting, warm and connected! Almost everyone I have met is involved in at least one extra activity, whether that is research or a club or a professional society or anything else. UC Merced is so diverse, there is an opportunity for you to do anything you like. There are constantly presentations or research meetings to find what you are interested in and build a network. Attend as many of these events as you can and make connections with those you meet. Learning occurs in every aspect of your life as a UC Merced student, whether you are in class or walking up the hill, there are always ways to learn about yourself, the community, your areas of interest or whatever you are passionate about.