Michelle Young: Education is Continuous

Written by Brittany Peters
    Thursday, 31 March 2016
Michelle Young: Education is Continuous

Michelle Young is an MPS teacher and proud mother of two extremely bright girls, Jada & Kennedy. She’s been nominated for Teacher of the Year for the past 3 years, but has yet to accept the award: “When you teach from the heart, you don’t get your validation from adults; you get it from the kids." Her family signed up for membership soon after Jada and Kennedy joined the Young Scientists Club in 2010/2011, and they’ve been actively involved in our educational programming ever since. She met Davita and me at Washington Park to tell us about her profound appreciation for what she’s learned here and how it shaped her life and career.

“The Urban Ecology Center was introduced to me when I was teaching science at Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts. Teaching is a second career for me, and they threw me in science. I mean, really? I was good with groups, applying collaboration in the classroom, managing a class; but I had no idea how to teach science until I observed Matt (Flower) and Erick (Anderson). They were teaching in a way that immediately engaged the kids. The kids just gravitated towards them. I said okay, this is how I’m supposed to teach science in the classroom.

When we asked Michelle what she did with Jada and Kennedy when she first brought them to Washington Park, she told us that she signed them up for the Young Scientists Club, hoping to introduce them to something she didn’t feel they had.

“I knew that part of my job as a parent is to be the first teacher; that’s what I practice and preach. I just made the assumption that they weren’t getting a lot out of school, or a lot of hands-on experience. They weren’t coming home talking about science. They weren’t coming home talking about school, period. And once I got here I was like oh, wow, look what they’re doing. They’re teaching aspects of the scientific method, they’re teaching science process skills, kids are learning about the different types of birds. I was impressed!”

She continues, “At the same time, I wanted to come for me because education is continuous. I found this to be a free way of learning science from people who do it constantly and have a strong hold on the kids. Each of them brings something different to the table. Erick doesn’t know it, but I’m using him. I take what I see here and bring it back to my classroom because if it’s exciting for me, or my daughters, then I know it’ll be exciting for my kids in the classroom.”

As we were setting up this interview with Michelle, Erick referred to her as an “all-star member”. We gladly relayed the compliment when we asked her about some of her other activities she’s involved in at Washington Park.

“Well… I wouldn’t say an ‘all-star’ member. I just volunteer; make an appearance when you have your Winterfest, Harvest Fest, Community Pies; just any opportunity. The girls are here and I want to see what they’re doing and get involved. I did bird watching with Tim because I don’t know much about birds. At one point I was pulling weeds; wherever I can be of help. I guess I don’t look at it as being a ‘super-star’, but rather an opportunity to give back to the community.

For me, that’s what membership at the Center means to me: continuing education and giving back to the community. You do it for the community. You do it for your kids and their education. My girls really learned about science here, and they didn’t even pay attention to the fact that they were learning because they were having so much fun. And it’s more than just play; the science that’s here, kids aren’t getting it anywhere else.

As a teacher you’re always looking for ways to improve your practice, and I’ve learned so much here without feeling intimidated. I’ve since gone back to get my Masters in Science Education. I was going to get up out of science! But I’m telling you, it was Matt and Erick that showed me how fun it could really be. I’ve never told them this, but I don’t think they realize what they’ve done for my practice. I have a lot of experiences and I’m so appreciative. I didn’t realize the impact until now, sitting here, talking about it. It’s emotional. They, and the Center, shaped my career and my life and I never realized it until now…

…just don’t tell Erick.”

You can read more about Jada and Kennedy and their impressive involvement with our Young Scientists Club and the Driven to Discover Program here


 Special thanks to Davita Flowers-Shanklin who assisted with the interview and editing of this article. 


Brittany Peters

Brittany Peters

Brittany is the Membership & Development Systems Coordinator at the Urban Ecology Center. She is thrilled to part of an organization that teaches kids about science and inspires everyone to get outside and experience nature in our city. When she’s not entering data, poring over spreadsheets, or connecting with our incredible members and volunteers, she enjoys hiking, spying on birds with her binoculars, jumping for joy when she can accurately identify one, and figuring out how to fit one more houseplant in her living space


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