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Meet Your New Moderator, Jackie Taylor

This conversation is by way of introducing Jackie Taylor as the new moderator of the Science Community of Practice.  Many of you already know Jackie from one or another facet of her professional life.  She has had many aspects to her career; through this discussion you may learn previously unknown dimensions to her work.

This is an asynchronous discussion: Jackie is in the Eastern Time Zone, and I am on Pacific Time.  We expect the conversation to last over the next two days.  Please read along and join in with comments and questions of your own, if you wish to do so!

First, Jackie, let’s talk science!  You’ve done field research work, and it would be interesting to hear about that experience in the rain forests. What did you do, and what did you learn?


JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Hi Susan and Science COP Colleagues!

Thank you for the warm welcome, Susan. I’m honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to be the Science COP moderator. Susan, you are certainly leaving big shoes to fill! But I will do my best to help our learning experiences be as fruitful as possible so that we can advance science instruction in adult education.

Yes, I did field research in the early 1990’s, and that grew from my passion as an environmental educator. I began my career in science with a bachelor’s degree in Vertebrate Zoology and a minor in Chemistry. I worked for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation as a naturalist at Fall Creek Falls State Park (which, BTW, boasts to have the tallest free falling waterfall east of the Mississippi!). Part of my work included studying medicinal uses of native plants by the Cherokee. Through those experiences, my passion for unlocking the mysteries of medicine grew.

In 1993, I had the opportunity to travel to the most biodiverse tropical forest in the world, the Amazon. The purpose was to stay with the Huaorani tribe, follow the shaman, and collect medicinal plants to then be packed and shipped to UMass Amherst for analysis. Four professors from Amherst traveled with us: the department chair, a biologist, botanist, and geneticist. It was a life-changing experience for me.

We stayed with the Huaorani (also called the “Waorani”) tribe. The Huaorani, one of the Western Hemisphere’s two remaining primitive tribes, are estimated to have inhabited the western fringes of the Amazon basin for several hundred years.

For centuries, the Huaorani shunned outsiders and killed anyone who trespassed on their land. You may have heard of “Operation Acua” (which means “savages”): it was an attempt in 1956 by Evangelical Christian missionaries to bring Christianity to the Huaorani people. Instead, they were attacked and speared by the Huaorani. This story galvanized missionary work and in 2006 was made into a movie called “End of the Spear”.

I can’t do my experience justice in a short post. But the people were caring and curious. I saw plants and animals like I have never seen before. We even brought rope and ascending gear and I climbed into the tops of the rainforest trees with a new friend I met from the tribe, “Pa”.

What did I learn? My eyes were opened -- everything we do in this world has an impact. Our existence has an impact. I witnessed firsthand why it is so important to minimize our global footprint. Something as simple as pumping gas (oil consumption) contributes to the destruction of the rainforest. Deforestation in turn causes hundreds of species to become extinct daily, and with them the secrets they keep.

Jackie Taylor

Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

Jackie, thanks so much for writing this fascinating account of your rainforest fieldwork!  Scientific fieldwork usually involves some risk, but your experience is at the far end of the risk spectrum!  I hope this specific discussion will continue in the future: there is a lot more to discuss on this topic, including the current ramifications of what you saw and recorded then.  Also, it would be interesting to hear about the experiences that other CoP members may have had in field expeditions.

Many research projects are conducted closer to home, including citizen-science projects.  Much can be done by those who have interests in scientific topics but who are not formally trained for a career in scientific research.  In your early days of teaching, you and your students constructed and completed a citizen-science project.  Please tell us about it. What resulted from that project?  What effects did you see in your students? 

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Hi Susan and All,

Yes, a lot can be accomplished at home! Early in my career, I taught at a vocational high school that served at-risk high school students from adjacent counties.

I taught Agriscience as a general biology credit and Marketing as an economics credit.  After classroom discussion of students becoming ill from swimming in the local Sequatchie River, the Marketing students decided to raise awareness of water quality in the Sequatchie Valley by developing a water quality awareness campaign. When I told my Agriscience students this, they wanted to be involved too.

The students from both classes got together to write a play depicting an anonymous community’s impact on local water quality. The play could be conducted in any room that had two doors (entrance and exit). Each wall of the room had its own set, which they built out of cardboard, chicken wire, paper mache, and paint. In the meantime, I brought together state agencies and told them of my students’ concerns. They formed an interagency team on water quality in the Sequatchie Valley and began holding interagency meetings to which the students were invited.

The students worked with the Interagency Team to set up a series of “town halls” on water quality in the Sequatchie Valley. The play they wrote became the introduction to each town hall. It was a portable set, so why not! Each performance followed with a meeting of agency staff and landowners along the river to discuss best land and water management practices. Interagency staff included the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA, hydroelectric), Water Resources, Environment and Conservation, Fish and Wildlife, and others.

Of the students’ own choosing, they started coming to school over lunch or stayed late to work on their project. The students usually organized / brought pizza. Some parents who were land owners on the river became concerned, including one of the high school principals. However, the students were the best advocates with their parents so the project continued. They hosted town halls across the entire river valley!

Later that spring, the Division of Water Resources nominated my students for the Governor’s TN Environmental Awareness Award for East TN, which they won!

I was very proud of them. What citizen science projects have you been involved with? I look forward to reading about your experiences now or in future conversations.

Jackie Taylor

Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

Jackie, thanks for describing these events.  The students, and you, accomplished a lot!  This example shows how citizen science often starts...with a specific concern, such as becoming sick from swimming in a local river.  Anything having to do with water quality and supply will be more and more important, also.  I know of some adult basic education students who became interested in aquatic invasive species after learning about the problem.  They started some clean-up days in their local area, aimed at invasive species eradication.  I, also, look forward to hearing from Science CoP members about citizen-science projects.

So, Jackie, let's move from science specifically to the more general topic of professional development!  

You come to the Science Community of Practice with experience as a moderator for LINCS discussions, especially about issues in professional development.  This started in the “early days”, when the discussions were email-based, rather than the web-based SME format.  Please tell us your thoughts about moderating, and about your plans for this community as LINCS moves from SMEs to moderators in all groups.

On a related topic, you’ll be in Denver for the COABE (Commission on Adult Basic Education) conference in late April, 2015.   As president of COABE (and before that as president-elect and as a member of the COABE board), you’ve seen a number of changes.  Please describe how COABE meets the needs of adult basic education practitioners.  What current trends do you see in professional development? 




JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Hi Susan and All,

I began as moderator of the Professional Development Discussion List in 2003 for the National Institute for Literacy. The group started with 75 members and over the years grew to 1700+ before transitioning to the platform we now use here, in the LINCS Communities of Practice.

Some of the best discussions I’ve seen are initiated by participants (not always by the moderator!). They are focused on issues participants face, often arising from that “just-in-time” need, and members are not afraid to post. Or if they’re unsure about posting, they send their posts to the moderator for feedback prior to posting, or to be posted by the moderator anonymously.

Sometimes these conversations emerge from organized guest discussions, webinars, small group work, and other learning opportunities. Others are less structured and more spontaneous. But the important thing is that discussions arise from participants’ needs.

My hope for our Science COP during this transition is that we focus on each others' professional learning needs, questions, reflections, mutual sharing and ideas around science instruction in adult education. The more experiences we share with one another, the more we will benefit as a community and grow as a result.

From time to time, I will organize a guest discussion or learning opportunity with your input on the topic and design. I will also prompt us when important federal initiatives or other national opportunities are coming our way and may be of interest to Science COP Members.

But that's just my thoughts. What are * your * hopes for the Science COP? What are your hopes for me as the moderator?

I appreciate your feedback,

Jackie Taylor

Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

This interview has been enjoyable, Jackie.




Michael Cruse's picture
One hundred

Hi, Citizen Science Community Members,

Jackie, this is such a great story of involving Career and Technical Education (CTE) students in citizen science!  I just want to share a resource for others who may be interested in exploring citizen science projects with their students.  Public Lab:  "is a community where you can learn how to investigate environmental concerns. Using inexpensive DIY techniques, we seek to change how people see the world in environmental, social, and political terms."

Public Lab's resources are open source.  They also provide excellent resource guides for students and teachers to gather the materials needed for field exploration. They also sell low-cost kits of these materials.