Bringing joy to learning in the science classroom

Bubbles, fudge, and marshmallow darts: who says science can't be fun?

By Amplify Staff | February 27, 2023

As we prepare for an exciting new season of Science Connections: The Podcast, we’re looking back at past seasons and sharing some of the amazing conversations we’ve had so far.

We’re so grateful to our 15 guests whose insight, expertise, and generosity have made our podcast (if we may!) one of the best science podcasts out there.

If you’re new here, welcome! In Amplify’s Science Connections: The Podcast, host Eric Cross talks to educators, scientists, and subject matter experts about ways to best support and inspire the next generation of 21st-century scientists.

Get ready for season 3, with all-new topics and speakers, premiering in March!

Our first featured throwback episode, Bringing community and joy to the learning process in K–8 science instruction, features physicist Dr. Desiré Whitmore!

First, meet Dr. Whitmore

Dr. Whitmore has nicknamed herself “Laserchick.” It’s a reference to the focus of her postdoc work at UC Berkeley, where she designed and built attosecond lasers. (These laser pulses, which emit x-ray light, are the fastest ever measured).

She later became a professor of laser and photonics technology at Irvine Valley College, as well as a science curriculum specialist for Amplify. She’s now senior physics educator in the Teacher Institute at the ExplOratorium in San Francisco.

There, she works to support middle and high school science teachers in teaching through inquiry. On a given day, she says, her role may include “making fudge or blowing darts with marshmallows across the room.”

But it all began with bubbles—the ones she’d blow as a child with her beloved great-grandmother. She was also the kind of kid who would do experiments in the microwave or take apart the vacuum cleaner. “I was always asking questions,” she says.

 “Everything we do is science”—and more.

Here are some key takeaways from Dr. Whitmore’s conversation with Eric Cross.

  • Let students do their thing. Whitmore and Cross talked about students who didn’t hew to the letter of the assignment—and actually went beyond. That’s more than okay.

I think it’s amazing when we can realize as teachers that no, our job is not to just enforce rules on our students. Our job is to help students achieve more learning.

—Dr. Desiré Whitmore

  • Representation truly matters. Dr. Whitmore, who is Black, recalls a chemistry teacher she had in high school who was also Black. “He looked like me and spoke the way I spoke,” she says. He also recognized that she knew a lot about chemistry, and half-jokingly encouraged her to teach the class sometimes. In Whitmore’s experience, representation like that can supersede content knowledge.
  • Science is everything and everywhere. “Science is something that everyone in the world should and does do,” says Whitmore. She sees part of her job as “helping people understand that everything we do is science.”
  • Show scientists as real people. Whitmore recalls a time when an eighth-grader she’d known growing up was thrilled to recognize her in an Amplify Science video. The student knew her as a “regular human” who likes “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” but now also sees her as a scientist. “That really brought home for me the importance of my work,” she says.
  • Put teachers in students’ shoes. As part of professional development, Cross and Whitmore agree that it’s important for teachers to remember how it feels to have a question—to not know. “That helps me be in the position of my students emotionally,” says Cross.

Perhaps that’s the most powerful way for teachers to connect with their future scientists: “To experience science as a learner,” says Whitmore.

Additional resources

Inquiry-based learning: 3 tips for science teachers
New professional development series for science educators
Celebrate student scientists with classroom posters, activities, and a special giveaway!


Amplify Science NGSS Phenomena-based learning Science Connections Science teacher tips

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