Esser-Kahn Group

Changing the world, one site at a time…

"Good teachers make great scientists" is the motto of the Esser-Kahn group. Education of the public alongside engaging young minds with science have become a national priorities and the Esser-Kahn lab is actively engaged in reaching students through multiple means.
The group is active in a number of
outreach activities on campus and throughout Orange County. Our goal is to promote the twin philosophies of learning by doing and that science isn't "hard" to understand.

Science Isn't "Hard". It's Easy! As scientists, we have all encountered the person who upon learning your profession, says, "Oh, I liked Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Discipline-X but it was just too hard." Hard? What does this even mean? Roughly translated, hardness is the concept that science is beyond an average persons' comprehension. Hardness is a euphemism to say that science either, involves concepts seemingly beyond normal life-experience or, as is more often the case, concepts that have been poorly taught. Our lab doesn't believe there is anything "hard" about understanding scientific concepts. Scientific concepts, execution and practice are a big part of everyday life. Broadly, our goal is to take the hardness out of science, make it un-hard, hard-free, with no added hard. In other words, science isn't hard, it's easy! We seek to spread this message by finding the science in the everyday. We demonstrate how the tools, concepts and ideas in scientific learning are common place in the "un-hard" world.

Using this guiding philosophy, the group actively engages the general public through several means. We host students on lab-tours, give public demonstrations, reach out to local K-12 schools through UCI's
outreach program and directly engage the public through seminars and engaging the public press.

All with the goal of making one thing clear, Science isn't Hard. It's Easy.

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Learning by Doing. Our second outreach effort is focused on actively shaping young minds toward becoming scientists and generating interest in STEM. Young people who are science-curious, are often discouraged from becoming practicing scientists, from the many misconceptions that surround the practice of scientific endeavors. This all boils down to one thing - these students don't know any scientists. Science and scientists are often grossly stereotyped in the media and public perception. The truth is, all sciences are a collections of human-beings working with a common purpose, common culture, and common "language". Lacking immersion in this scientific cultural experience, many students do not know how to speak "science", engage with scientists, or how being a scientist feels. We engage students at the high-school level through a practiced summer apprenticeship program. High-school students work directly with active researchers, learning in the renaissance style of apprenticeship, where culture, knowledge, and practice go together hand-in-hand. Science apprenticeship is one of the few means shown to steer science curious students toward STEM careers. Our summer apprenticeship program has been active, so far including 3 members. We plan to continue engaging students in this manner for years to come.
Jade Warren (Troy High School, Fullerton CA)