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Science Education

09/21/2011

Dr. Nick Stroud was studying to be an astrophysicist when he realized his calling was in education. This fall, he joined MCLA's faculty as an assistant professor of science and technology, where he's training future educators to teach science and to incorporate technology in their classrooms.

At MCLA, Stroud said, he's found his ideal job.

"I started out as a scientist before I was an educator. I got my master's in astrophysics and I was in a Ph.D. program in astrophysics at Stony Brook, N.Y.," he explained. "As part of a National Science Foundation fellowship I had, I was working in Long Island, N.Y., with students in public schools. I realized that I liked the education part of the science better than the research side of science. So, I switched gears and went into a science education doctoral program at Columbia University."

While in New York City, Stroud had the opportunity to work with a number of museums, including the Museum of Natural History. He also helped to start a space science museum that was part of New York City's Department of Education, and had input into its afterschool programs.

"I try to bring all of those things together in some sort of meaningful way when I'm training teachers," he said.

MCLA - and the Berkshires - are a great fit for the type of work Stroud wants to do.

"MCLA really has a strong leadership role in STEM in the Berkshires and I think, for me, that was certainly the big draw. I feel like that is something I can contribute to in a meaningful way, and especially in the bridging of the sciences and education. Those sometimes don't cross-pollinate as much as they should," he said.

Already, Stroud has reached out to a number of local cultural institutions. And, "there also are a lot of wonderful, natural areas and resources here that can be drawn upon, especially for science education. There are a lot of great opportunities that I think are probably not utilized."

For example, "Almost every school, certainly in the northern Berkshires has a stream or a river running by it or near it, so there's a lot of natural areas around schools I think could be better utilized in terms of getting kids out to explore their local habitats," he said. "We would essentially use those waterways as science laboratories. It's a place where science comes alive."

MCLA's strong support for STEM education played a big part of Stroud's desire to teach at the College. A major goal of his is to infuse science into the Berkshire County culture in a way similar that the arts have become permeated into the landscape.

"Berkshire County has certainly become known as a destination for arts and culture and I'd like to see the same kind of focus on science here, as well, because there are some really wonderful opportunities and resources here in the sciences, and that includes people that are working in science, natural areas, cultural institutions - there's a lot of really rich opportunities there for bringing science to the forefront and making it more of the fabric of everyday life here."