Founded in 1998, Perspectives On Science is a monthly dinner and lecture series focused on connecting San Diego County middle and high school science teachers and Southern Californian research scientists to discuss current scientific developments and research. The program is about to enter what is planned to be its final year in 2023-2024.
Past speakers have included two winners of the National Medal of Science, five Nobel Laureates, six Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators, and 46 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In all, there have been 189 speakers representing 31 different Southern California universities and biotech companies.
Currently, there are 728 POS subscribers who represent 208 different schools and organizations from throughout San Diego County. The Viewpoint talked with one long-term attendee, Dana Tomlinson, about what the program has meant to her. Even with her insight from working eight years as a flight attendant and familiarity with academic curricula from 10 years teaching South Bay Union School District sixth-graders, Tomlinson still felt like she had room to grow in the classroom.
While she had a bachelor’s degree in humanities, a master’s degree educational administration, a multiple subject teaching credential, and an administrative credential from San Diego State University, she yearned for more training in science subjects to become a stronger educator.
This prompted Tomlinson to first attend Perspectives on Science (POS), in 1999. Following her first attendance, Tomlinson recognized how by attending POS she could establish a firm scientific foundation that would enhance her teachings in the classroom.
“I absolutely believe that if a teacher loves something, their students are going to love it because of the enthusiasm they bring. This is one of the reasons why I worked hard to build up my science acumen.”
“It was a good way for me to get some rich professional development several times a year. I could listen to an educational lecture geared above what I am teaching every day. Not all of it I could take back to the classroom, but a lot of it I could and did,” Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson also knew the success of her students would reflect the confidence she had in each subject.
“I absolutely believe that if a teacher loves something, their students are going to love it because of the enthusiasm they bring. This is one of the reasons why I worked hard to build up my science acumen,” Tomlinson said.
Taking Teaching into Her Own Hands
On top of attending POS events, Tomlinson got involved with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Teacher at Sea Program to gain more confidence in teaching science.
With NOAA, she has done research on the green sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean, has brought NOAA scientists to her sixth-grade classrooms, brought her students on field trips to NOAA in San Diego Bay, and arranged to have two turtle scientists present as lecturers at POS.
Tomlinson has also been involved with the American Meteorological Society and other national science organizations, as she sees hands-on learning to be one of the most efficient methods to teach students.
“If I see something that is a good project, I am happy to be a part of it. While I was teaching, I was a union official and was a mentor teacher for many student teachers, including student teachers from PLNU,” Tomlinson said.
“It is experiences, projects, and cooperative team buildings that are more enjoyable. If you can get children to enjoy school, they are going to do well at it.”
Tomlinson says that POS has helped her, and will help other educators enhance the embedding of hands-on learning in classroom settings.
“It is the experiences, projects, and cooperative team buildings that are what kids will remember and are more enjoyable,” Tomlinson said. “If you can get children to enjoy school, they are going to do well at it.”
An Excuse to Come Back
Tomlinson retired in 2015 after 26 years of teaching, and two years ago, she moved from San Diego to Arizona. Despite no longer being an educator or a local, Tomlinson remains a POS attendee, stopping in San Diego while or on her drive to visit family in Northern California.
“If I am in town when there is a Perspectives on Science event going on, I will make every effort to be there,” Tomlinson said. “Although I do not get to attend all of the lectures, it is still a privilege and treat to be able to attend when I can.”
When Tomlinson is in town during a POS event, she will often ask biology department assistant LeAnne Elizondo, a primary organizer of POS with Michael McConnell, Ph.D., professor emeritus of biology, for used books to donate to the Friends of the Bonita Public Library, which sells books at a discounted price to fund the library’s programs and materials.
Although she is retired, Tomlinson’s love for education remains, and POS contributes to her current passion to share this thirst for knowledge.
Tomlinson continues to sign up with colleagues from South Bay Union, with whom she enjoys listening and talking about the lectures over the event’s dinner.
“It is a way to remain connected with the educational community and always continues to be an intelligent discussion,” Tomlinson said. “The lecturers that they have are always topnotch.”
While Tomlinson particularly enjoys the biological lectures, she said that surprisingly, one of her favorites was on the science of magnets.
“I went into it thinking that it was going to be really dry, but it ended up being one of the best lectures ever. The lecturer was interesting, and I learned so much. Who knew magnets could be so interesting?” Tomlinson said.