Logan Schmidt ’05, Digital and Print Science Curriculum Writer

Logan Schmidt ’05

Please give a brief background on yourself and your career.
I started working in science museums as a 14-year old volunteer in the aquarium and rainforest exhibit at Discovery Place Science Museum in Charlotte, NC. After two years of volunteering, they hired me as a part time educator until I left for Wellesley. In college, I worked at the New England Aquarium's penguin exhibit in husbandry and education full-time during summers and volunteering during the year. After graduating from Wellesley, I toyed with the idea of getting a PhD in Biology and realized I wanted to go into science education instead — so I got a Masters of Science in Teaching Secondary Biology from Boston College. After grad school, I jumped straight into curriculum development as a Middle Grades Editor at Pearson Education, then left for a startup making video games that taught science, and finally ended up at the Smithsonian Science Education Center as a curriculum developer (my dream gig!). 

What do you wish you had known as a student? 
You absolutely don't have to have your future figured out, and try before you buy if you can. I always thought I wanted a PhD in biology, but it wasn't until I worked as a field assistant in the Falkland Islands that I realized that I wanted to TELL people about science more than I wanted to DO science. As a science educator, I get to enjoy both worlds. I'm so glad that I was able to be a field assistant and see that getting a PhD would be the wrong use of my talents — I saved a ton of money! 

And as for grad school — try not to go unless someone pays you to (though in some fields, that's just not possible). When I got into Boston College, I went to the admissions office with my resume and acceptance letter and said, "I've been accepted to other schools, but I really want to go HERE. But I can't afford it. What can you do to help me attend?" and a few phone calls later, I had a graduate assistantship and tuition assistance.

How has your career changed since you originally envisioned it at Wellesley? 
I really thought I'd be a wildlife biologist, always in the field, working with animals full-time. Now I work in an office! But like I said before, the bonus of science education is that I can dip back into the science world, because my job requires that I "report" on what's going on. So two summers ago, I spent a few weeks on an uninhabited island catching and weighing baby puffins and arctic terns - I got to do some field work, and I ALSO got to write about it for my job and pass that information on to students. 

What other careers did you consider as a student? 
Oh, I'm useless on this question — I knew I was going to do something in science, full-stop. 

What is a typical work day or work week like for you? 
The Smithsonian Science Education Center is one of the most demanding but fulfilling jobs I've ever had. My days are long and intense, but fantastic. The bulk of my work is writing brand-new curriculum for Grades 1 and 2 science classrooms, based on the Next Generation Science Standards. This means that I write the full suite of lessons for an entire module, start to finish. I test out lessons with my coworkers (we do egg-drops in staff meetings), call teachers to get the inside scoop on what teaching first or second grade is like, and talk to scientists and researchers within the Smithsonian to include their research in the curriculum. A small portion of my week is spent writing blogs for our STEMVision blog series, which is a fun little departure, and a chance to write outside of the module topics. 

What advice would you offer students and alumnae looking to get into your area of interest and expertise? 
If you want to work in museum education, volunteer first. That is hands-down the best way to get a foot in the door apart from a personal connection within the department. Volunteering with the museum demonstrates that you are passionate about that particular institution, and that you care so much about educating people that you are willing to do it for free. With the exception of working at Pearson, I've gotten every job by being a volunteer first. Also, figure out if you want to write curriculum for K-12 (in other words, the classroom environment) or the general public. If you want to write K-12 curriculum, you'll need to work for a publishing house or small non-profit outfit like the Smithsonian. If you want to write for the general public, you'll need to be on staff in an actual museum. It doesn't hurt to have classroom experience, but I'm living proof that you can parlay informal education experience into formal education curriculum development. I highly recommend pursuing a teaching degree, however. Learning how to write a formal lesson plan and accommodate diverse learners is an important skill no matter who your audience is. Also, if you want to work in museum education, be prepared to be "on" for most hours of your workday. It's best if you are the kind of person who is fueled by interaction with others, because you will get a LOT OF IT. 

Regarding helpful/informative resources for those interested in curriculum development, what are the websites, organizations, publications etc...you would recommend? 
If you want to do formal science curriculum development, the NSTA website and publications are a good way to get a sense of what's going on in science curric development today (and they also have a section for informal educators). NAEYC is great for resources and research about teaching young children. Harvard Educational Review is never a bad bet.