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A Change of Direction Inspired by Library of Congress Explorations

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This post was written by Lesley Anderson, 2021-2022 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the Library of Congress.

This year has been one of the most transformative in my life. I began my experience as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator by moving across the country for a remote fellowship with the Library of Congress. Learning how to navigate a new job in a new city without actually being able to go into the office or meet my colleagues in person was challenging. Very quickly I realized how collaborative this team of educators is and it became so easy to fit in. I found that asking questions helped me to find a sense of place in the digital collections and receiving feedback on my research and writing was one of the highlights of this year.

Main Reading Room. Detail of Blashfield’s mural in dome collar, showing America’s contribution to science

Halfway through the year, COVID restrictions were lifted, I was able to enter the building, and I felt as if the fellowship began again. I was once again learning new protocols for where and how to work and meeting my colleagues face to face, sometimes for the first time! It made me realize the value of having a personal connection with collaborators.

A few highlights from my time at the Library include attending the Gershwin Prize award show, exploring the different reading rooms and their collections, taking a tour of the digital scan center, and just looking up whenever I walked into the main reading room in the Jefferson building. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the feeling of being surrounded by the pure beauty of that space.

My time at the Library of Congress has enabled me to think differently about where science fits into history and how history can contextualize science. I learned that combining the “observe, reflect, question” protocol with “claim, evidence, reasoning” can strengthen student explanations in the science classroom and level the playing field for students by providing them an opportunity to engage in the conversation with just a question. I enjoyed being able to write about this perspective in blog posts and webinars, and I’m really proud of the STEM webinar series, co-led with Peter DeCraene, which featured interdisciplinary primary source analysis paired with hands-on demonstrations.

Image of tents, people and dogs found at the camp set up at the foot of the Axel Heilberg Glacier.
A camp pitched by the polar party at the foot of the Axel Heiberg Glacier. United Newspapers 1911

This year also reinvigorated my passion for polar science. As I read manuscripts from famous explorers and scientists, I thought about my own enthusiasm for being involved in that type of exploration. I continued to become even more enthralled with Antarctic exploration as I thumbed through a photo album from the Admiral Byrd expedition of 1958 during the International Geophysical Year. A visit to the map division to investigate historic polar science maps solidified my excitement for Antarctic science and encouraged me to pursue my passion for this field as a career.

Next year, I will be working from the U.S. Antarctic Program as a Science Planner supporting scientists with the logistics for their expeditions to the ice. I would never have had the courage to take on this exciting new career path if it hadn’t been for the support and encouragement from the Professional Learning and Outreach Initiatives team at the Library of Congress. Thank you for helping me become a stronger writer, better listener, and more effective science communicator this past year. I look forward to bringing my newly developed skills from the Library to the U.S. Antarctic Program.

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Comments (3)

  1. Thank you for spending this past year with our team, Lesley! We have benefitted from your positive energy, curiosity, teacher sense and collegiality. We wish you the very best as you continue to explore new directions!

  2. The blog gave us a best example some whp plan to lead an institution can learn from.

    Almighty God help him and us.

  3. Lesley Anderson, you are a gifted teacher, inspiring colleague, energetic explorer — an all-around science rock star! Many Virginia educators have benefited, either directly or indirectly, from your presence at the Library this past year. All the best to you!

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