2012 RET Profile: Jeff Davis
Veteran teacher helps launch new internship program at the MagLabs Pulsed Field Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory
By Kathleen Laufenberg
Turquoise Trail Charter School teacher Jeff Davis will have a lot to tell his fifth-graders this fall about how he spent his summer.
Fifth-grade teacher Jeff Davis, who did a month-long teacher internship at Los Alamos, puzzles over how to best illustrate the concept of electromagnetic waves using water.
Davis, 57, was one of two Santa Fe, N.M., teachers to spend the month of June working at the front lines of research at the Pulsed Field Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), a satellite campus of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. Davis and Andrea Felix, a physical education teacher at E.J. Martinez Elementary School, are the first teachers to do summer internships at the Magnet Labs prestigious pulsed magnet facility.
This experience — doing the LANL internship — has given me new ideas about teaching science to my class, said Davis. The internship also turned the tables on this 17-year veteran teacher: He became the learner rather than the teacher. Thats given him food for thought, too.
Every summer, the Magnet Lab offers a dozen or more teachers from around the nation a chance to be involved in cutting-edge research in physics, chemistry, biological sciences, geochemistry, materials science, magnet science and engineering. Teachers accepted into the Research Experiences for Teachers program work closely with mentors and are thoroughly integrated into research activities. Until this year, however, all teacher internships happened in Tallahassee.
Davis heard about the MagLabs summer internships from a Santa Fe teacher who did one last year. But Davis was unable to leave Santa Fe to spend six weeks in Florida, so he investigated the possibility of doing an internship at the pulsed magnet lab in Los Alamos. That led to an initial meeting with LANL physicist Ross McDonald.
Because Ross is so incredibly busy, we ended up meeting for the first time at his house in Santa Fe at 8:30 p.m. while he was eating dinner, Davis said.
Davis decided to intern with McDonald and focus on studying electromagnetic waves. He also flew to Tallahassee and spent several days at the 370,000-square-foot Magnet Lab to get a better idea of how the established teacher internship program here works.
With the inauguration of the LANL Research Experiences for Teachers program, our hope is to improve the general publics knowledge of the science that goes on at Los Alamos, said Jose Sanchez, the assistant director of the MagLabs Center for Integrating Research and Learning. Jeffs been very creative, and I think hes gotten a lot out of the RET program, both personally and professionally.
Davis finished his month-long internship at LANL by creating a hands-on lesson on water waves, which he said his fifth-graders would enjoy doing this fall. But he also came away with insights about teaching and learning that he wont soon forget.
Those scientists at LANL, when Im sitting there listening to them, I most often dont understand what theyre saying. Theyre speaking in their own language, not mine. But I do get the passion and the intensity of what theyre talking about, and I do see that they love what theyre doing.
That led him to an aha! moment.
Its been a really strong reminder to me that my students dont know my language either, he said. I dont know physics to the degree these scientists do, but I know something about physics. I might know 10 percent of whats out there, but maybe my students know 1 percent. So to them, I sound a lot like those scientists do to me!
Now he wants to share the benefits of his LANL experience with others in New Mexico.
Im hoping that I will be able to help make it work — a Research Experiences for Teachers here at LANL — through talking with other people who want to make it happen, Davis said. Because it is such a different environment for teachers. Its a very eye-opening experience.
For more information about the MagLabs RET program contact Jose Sanchez at email@example.com or (850) 645-0033.