Works and Days

"Not just there to teach science": Bailey Boatsman on her experience with Biology Outreach

Bailey Boatsman, Class of 2016 

Biology Outreach Lead Teacher

Bailey is a volunteer lead teacher with the Biology Outreach program. The Biology Outreach program creates partnerships with local schools to provide science lessons to students who would not otherwise have access. Although not pursuing the sciences in her own academics, Bailey cultivates her love of teaching and evident reverence for all learning by bringing science to local elementary school students. Her thoughtful perspective reminds us not to forget that enthusiasm and true curiosity are all that is needed to reveal the joy and discovery in life’s smallest moments.

MW: How did you become involved with Biology Outreach? Could you tell me a bit about the program?

BB: It’s through the biology department at Reed. It connects Reed students of any major with Portland elementary schools that either don’t have science programs, or at least don’t have a substantial science program. All the schools have a significant number of students from underprivileged families.

MW: What drew you to become involved with Biology Outreach?

BB: I love teaching. I’ve always loved teaching. I thought it would be a good way to stay connected with doing what I love. Also, my elementary school didn’t have a strong science program and that affected me through middle school and high school. I struggled with science because I didn’t have a solid foundation to work from. It became really important to me not only to teach kids but also to provide them with the leg up I never had.

MW: How has participation with the program been meaningful to you?

BB: It’s very valuable to me in a number of ways. One, I get to be off campus and see kids. Sometimes in college it’s easy to forget that other age groups exist. Also, I want to teach someday, and this allows me to get teaching experience. On one level, it’s just really fun. On another level, it’s so easy to get caught up in the Reed bubble, and it’s nice to get off campus and remember what’s really important. One of those important things for me is teaching. It’s really lovely to spend and hour a week in a different setting with some of the most inspirational people I’ve met in college: the kids.

Also, we’re not just there to teach science. We’re there to be role models for kids who might think that college is out of their reach. We’re there to show them,  “you can do this, there are resources for you to make this happen. When you get older if you find you love learning as much as we do, or as much as you seem to now, there are ways you can get to college”

It’s so rewarding to come into a class and see a class of 30 smiling faces, and share with them how the world works.

MW: Could you describe your typical day with Biology Outreach?

BB: We usually meet in teams of two or three earlier in the week to go over lesson plans and strategize, before the day of. When we arrive at the school, we spend an hour in the classroom teaching the kids. Every day includes an experiment based on a different scientific topic. I teach fifth grade, and right now we’re teaching super basic physics. We’re introducing concepts of matter and energy and force. Fifth grade is really hard because it’s when science stops becoming tangible. We try to make abstract concepts accessible. So we try to be really animated and give lots of examples, trying to put the ideas and the experiments in terms of their own experiences.

MW: Do you have a favorite experiment that you did with the kids?

BB: Yes! Last year I taught 4th grade, and the curriculum was based on habitats and adaptations. Each class was given a tank of salmon that they raised from eggs to fry. At the end of the year we went on a field trip to release the salmon in the Willamette. The kids did an obstacle course, pretending as though they were salmon. They had to face the hardships that salmon might encounter throughout their life.

MW: You mentioned earlier that you found the kids to be the most inspirational people you’ve met in college. What do you think these kids could teach Reedies?

BB: Oh, so many lessons! Enthusiasm for everything. Especially the little things. I think Reedies forget about appreciating the little things, especially when they’re stressed about all the work.

Also, a willingness to learn and to try new things, even if it’s something outside of their comfort zone. I remember specifically we had to do an experiment with worms—these really fat, gross worms. I didn’t want to touch them. I would call the kids up, asking “Okay, who wants to come up and help me move this worm?” And all the kids were so willing to come touch the worms, very gently and kindly. It made me realize I need to get over myself and take risks. Even if they’re just little risks.

To learn more about Biology Outreach, or to find information about getting involved, visit their website:

Tags: biology outreach, community involvement, science, education, science outreach