Emily Matula, student, undergraduate engineering
The best way to change the world or to get something done is to go out and do it yourself. For the past few semesters, I've participated in a great U-M program called A World In Motion (AWIM), which brings science lessons to elementary-school children in the area. A group of university students goes into a classroom for an hour, one day a week, to teach a science lesson and perform a related experiment. I've always wanted to be a teacher, and I enjoy working with kids. So this was a natural fit.
One of my favorite projects was during our electricity section. We filled pie pans with water and asked the kids to make little boats out of Styrofoam packing peanuts. With combs charged by rubbing them in the kids' hair, we were able to control the boats all around the pie pans. Some of the children caught on quickly and understood that the boats were attracted to the charge on the combs. Others just had fun propelling the boats.
I think this experience with AWIM has made me aware that everybody learns differently, and repeating something to a child over and over again, the same way each time, isn't going to make him understand what's going on. Realizing that fact, I've helped the kids and I've also been able to help my classmates if they're struggling. It's important to see things from another person's point of view before you can help him to learn.
I used to be a procrastinator, or I'd try to accomplish things at illogical times. Working with AWIM made me allocate my time carefully so that I could study and spend time with the children without falling behind in class. I might not get the best grades in the class or be on the dean's list, but I've given my all to be a part of this University and to make sure that I've had the best experience that I can.
When I was considering which university to attend and decided to hit the acceptance button on the U-M website, I knew that fall I was to become my own independent person, live four hours away from home, broaden my knowledge and get outside my comfort zone. Nothing has been the same since the moment I pushed that button, but it has been such a great experience that I wouldn't change it at all.