Dennis Schatz, president-elect of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and senior advisor at the Pacific Science Center, draws inspiration from an encounter that saddened him.
Schatz was shooting photos on the Olympic Peninsula with friends and they stopped at a diner. They chatted with the server about state assessment tests and she told them that her exams had gone fine, but that, “I’m glad I never have to take science again.”
The notion rattled him. For Schatz, science happens everywhere, all the time. You see a phenomenon, try to figure it out, you’re doing science.
“You want people to be enthused,” he said. “You want a life-long interest in science.”
Schatz is a solar astrophysicist by training, has written 25 science books for kids and last year Asteroid 25232 was renamed Asteroid Schatz by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center in honor of his dedication to science education. He’s worked for the Science Center for four decades.
This summer he started his year-long tenure at the head of the NSTA — the world’s largest membership organization for science educators — which will give him the chance to reframe people’s perception of science.
“My big focus is on broadening the idea of where learning occurs,” Schatz said. His motto is to make “science life-long, life-wide and life-deep.”
In some places, just helping people remember that science is a laudable, fact-based pursuit will be a challenge. On April 22, 2017, thousands of researchers and supporters of science joined “March for Science” events cheering the work and discoveries of the scientific community. The main march was held in Washington, D.C., with 600 cities participating internationally — Seattle included.
When people have strongly held beliefs about evolution or climate change that don’t align with scientific consensus, Schatz avoids confrontation and sticks to logic.
“You’re not going to change their opinions necessarily,” he said, “but you can talk about the nature of science and this is what the evidence shows.”
We caught up with Schatz for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: I primarily work from Seattle, but have significant travel requirements for my various jobs.
Computer types: Mac, Surface and iPad
Mobile devices: iPhone
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Pandora, Starbucks, Fibit, Twitter, Lyft, Facebook, Sky Guide, Google Maps, plus I extensively use many of the programs in Microsoft Office
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? I primarily work at home in an office on the second floor with a great view of the Olympic Mountains and landscape below. I get to the Science Center about once a week for meetings related to staff located there. The space at home is great — plenty of room, quiet for when I need to do my editing, fast internet connection required for most of my work, plus quick commute and food nearby.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Keep a to-do list, schedule your work, but include time for exercise and other downtime to keep the brain fresh.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They help keep colleagues aware of the activities, programs and services available in my three areas of work.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? Eighty-one — although not all of them need to be answered. Some are there because I need to deal with the contents sometime in the future.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 10
How do you run meetings? I always have an agenda and empower others to take a leadership role in the meeting whenever possible.
Everyday work uniform? Sweatshirt and sweatpants when working from home, casual at the Science Center and appropriate dress at other meetings.
How do you make time for family? I make sure that I put the time on my schedule.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? A 5-mile walk each day with my wife or listening to an audiobook. Also, I ride a stationary bicycle for an hour a day when home while watching the news.
What are you listening to? Celtic music of any kind, plus baroque music — especially Vivaldi and Georg Philipp Telemann
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? Electronic versions of New York Times, Washington Post and Politico. I also like the online science magazines Nautilus and Quanta.
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “The Map that Changed the World” by Simon Winchester
Night owl or early riser? Early riser. I try to be in bed by 10 p.m. and typically walk up without alarm by 6 a.m.
Where do you get your best ideas? From colleagues
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? Alan Friedman, my first boss at the Lawrence Hall of Science at University of California, Berkeley. His approach was to have a clear direction and objectives and goals, and then to really empower staff to move forward.