By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
It takes a special kind of person to become an entomologist – a scientist who studies insects – and Kim Schofield definitely makes the grade.
Schofield didn't even realize entomology was a career option until she got to Texas A&M – her undergraduate alma mater – where she first considered forensic entomology but later settled on urban entomology, which is what she does now.
Schofield works in Dallas, for the Texas AgriLife Extension office, where she studies landscape insects, conducts experiments and tests new insect-eliminating products on the market.
But there's a lesson to be learned from Schofield's story, besides the one involving the insects, which she presented to Nolanville Elementary School students during the school's fourth annual Science Day on Friday.
The more important lesson was the exposure to careers in science; the sooner children are exposed to science, the sooner they will realize that it's an option they, too, can work toward.
"You've got to spark them early to get them on the right curriculum path," said Barbara Speed, a special education teacher who was helping Michele Baker, a fifth-grade teacher, run the star lab.
"When students are affiliated with the experts, they get inspired to learn or develop a love for nature," said Pamela Anderson, the school's campus instructional specialist, who along with fellow instructional specialist Renee Cook, coordinated the event.
The fearless Schofield, who handled live, 4-inch cockroaches and other "bugs" during her presentation, was not the only scientist at the school's Science Day.
Cook and Anderson brought on board more than 40 scientists, or professionals working in a science-related field, to present to the kids interactive, hands-on and engaging presentations ranging from meteorology to dental casting, a star lab, archaeology, crime scene investigating, nutrition, inventions, water conservation, exotic reptiles, disease prevention, pathology and master gardening, to name just a few.
The daylong event, spread out across the school's campus – from the basketball court, where Fred Chavez, the director at the Central Texas College's Mayborn Planetarium, taught the kids how to launch air-propelled rockets, to the library, where exotic reptiles were displayed courtesy of Chameleon Counters in Copperas Cove.
"I wanted something for every child," said Anderson, explaining that her target audience was not just one age group but all of the kids from pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade.
Students were interested in the presentations – whether they were learning about flowers and making their own floral arrangements courtesy of Marvel's Florist, or locating the North Star, Big Dipper and the Little Dipper in the star lab.
"If you engage them, you can show them that they can do science, not just learn about science," said Chavez, adding that during his presentation he tried to teach the kids that science is fun and it's OK to make mistakes because "that's how we learn and experience breakthroughs, and that's how science works."