Meet REVISE: Kelly Paulson
We are excited to share our interview with Kelly Paulson, who supports the REVISE team.
"REVISE is working to increase equity and inclusion in informal science settings and that's inclusion for my son as well."
What drew you to STEM? To informal science?
I first wanted to be a teacher. In elementary school, I set up a school in my closet, with a cardboard box for a desk and writing assignments for my little sister. Then, in actual school, I had an assignment to design an educational board game and chose a rainforest theme. After all that biome research (the stunning photos! the mystery!), I switched my future career to rainforest explorer. Then, New Mexico born and bred, I decided it was time to be a marine biologist. I wasn't thinking about the science inherent in those career choices but instead the excitement of exploring.
That feeling led me to explore more STEM opportunities, including summer classes in entomology, a marine science summer camp in Monterey, and an insistence that we go to every aquarium. My mother would open the freezer to find containers with my latest specimens, destined for "Kelly's Bug Box," decorated with colored paper and bee illustrations. I eventually majored in biology with a marine science concentration. But instead of science research on boats or with mosquitos, I found my way to science education (see career choice number one). I started as an educator at a small aquarium in North Carolina, then an educator and special events coordinator at a small hands-on science center, and after other shifts and turns, I became a middle school science teacher. I wanted capture student interest with experiential learning and then slow them down to think, make connections, and continue to delve deeper.
I'm currently reading An Immense World by Ed Yong. It opened my eyes to the fact that that snail or elephant or ant is in the same space with everyone else but experiencing it in their own way. And there's nothing wrong with that or comparisons to be made. It's a reminder to open our own eyes (that see only our own part of the spectrum) and ask how others might experience the same. And not to mention the awesomeness of evolution and biodiversity!
What inspired you to join REVISE?
I stepped back from teaching science when my son was born. He is now an autistic 18-year-old. My enthusiasm for REVISE stems from my experience in education, in parenting a neurodiverse son, and through my work with EdGE at TERC. REVISE is working to increase equity and inclusion in informal science settings and that's inclusion for my son as well. I'm excited about the conversations about including all in STEM education, and what STEM education can and does mean to different minds and people.
Tell me a little bit about your current partnerships.
"I've seen how challenging it can be to create community and start conversations, not because there isn't need or interest, but because there are so many other distractions."
As a mom, I volunteer with Chromosome Disorder Outreach (CDO), a nonprofit organization supporting families and individuals looking for community as they experience the world with a genetic disorder. I've seen how challenging it can be to create community and start conversations, not because there isn't need or interest, but because there are so many other distractions. Like many communities built around a common interest, CDO still supports a diverse community, with families and their loved ones living their own very different experiences and coming to that space from a different direction.
As a professional, I also work with the EdGE team at TERC. We're looking at the intersection of neurodiversity and STEM, particularly in student development of computational thinking skills through executive function supports.
What do you envision the role of the REVISE center to be in the informal science community?
I think REVISE will keep conversations going that have already begun, start conversations where they just haven't yet, and inspire folks to converse across walls or open fields or content areas or points of view or wherever.
Who would you like to see represented more?
It probably goes without saying, based on all that I've said above, that I was drawn to REVISE due to my interest in neurodiversity. I'm interested in neurodivergent individuals not just being included in STEM but being included in the world. If STEM engagement drives connections and relationships, then all the better.