Pat Ross, professor of biology and chair of the natural science division at Southwestern College, will spend the fall 2014 semester as a scientist in residence at Exploration Place in Wichita.
“I am really looking forward to teaching science in a completely different educational environment,” Ross says. “I will help in the development of educational programs for spring/summer 2015. I really want to be an active part of their efforts. I will help in the training of their education staff. I would love to initiate some new programs and exhibits if time permits. I also would like to get an internship program set up so our students here at Southwestern who are interested in science education could funnel into Exploration Place for a semester or for a summer.”
Since Ross is going to be gone for just one semester, the college will not hire a professor to take over. Tamara McEwen, assistant professor of biology, will teach one of his classes.
The change from college professor to teaching children should be seamless for Ross. For the past three summers, he has traveled throughout the state of Kansas performing science shows for kids. Last summer, the show visited Kansas towns including Winfield, Arkansas City, Cawker City, Downs, Hugoton, Liberal, Andover, Ulysses, and Meade.
“Although my training is in biology, I have learned a lot by doing these library programs about what works and what doesn’t work with kids,” Ross says. “I am hoping to gain new insights from working with Exploration Place as well as sharing my experiences with them.”
“We welcome Pat’s level of knowledge and scholarship of science,” said Jan Luth, Exploration Place president. “He has a unique gift to take complex ideas and information and make them approachable. That’s what museums are all about.”
Southwestern College President Dick Merriman feels this is a win-win situation for everybody involved.
“Pat is a very innovative science educator and Exploration Place is an ideal venue for him to develop and experiment with new teaching techniques,” Merriman says. “Our students, and patrons of Exploration Place, will certainly benefit. We believe this can be the start of a valuable partnership with Exploration Place and we’re very grateful to the museum’s president, Jan Luth, for helping it happen.”
Sabbaticals are available for professors at Southwestern for the purpose of professional enrichment. They are allowed to take one every seven years if they choose to.
“One of the purposes of the sabbatical is to recharge your batteries,” Ross says. “It is a chance to get away from the day-to-day activities of teaching courses that I have taught several times in a row. Hopefully I will learn some new teaching techniques that are transferrable to my work at the college. If you’re doing something with third graders, some may wonder why is that in anyway going to help me teach college course work to sophomores in college; I think it does. They are more alike than one would think. Our students always appreciate the kind of interactive and hands-on activities that are the hallmark of good science education.”
Exploration Place offers visitors of all ages interactive environments, hands-on experiences, Kansas’ largest dome theater – the Boeing Dome Theater and Planetarium – imaginative spaces, and outdoor recreation, all located on a 20-acre site along the scenic Arkansas River in downtown Wichita, Kan.