Who Are We?

Our Philosophy

We value learning science (and all STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in everyday settings. Too often STEM subjects are portrayed as something we do not experience in our daily lives. When – in reality – scientists, engineers and mathematicians are inspired in their discoveries by the world around them; it is with that passion innovation happens. The resources that we provide are meant to be available to everyone, and not reliant on highly-specialized materials or tools. Our goal is to inspire families to “see and experience the science” in everyday moments, big and small, wherever they may be.  

Dr. Lauren Swanson, Director

As a child, I was fascinated by the world around me. I loved nature programs. This love of the natural world led me to pursue teaching biology at the high school level. I am an Associate Professor of Science Education in the Department of Education & Child Development at Whittier College. I have two children and love helping them to connect our daily activities to science (in addition to visiting museums, science centers, and parks). The Science Circus Whittier Project embodies that passion for teaching and learning science in meaningful ways. Hopefully it will provide an entry point for many children into an exploration and love of the world around them. Whittier College Faculty Website

Dr. Christopher Mendoza, Associate Director

I started my career in the East Whittier City School District as a science teacher and now work as a science instructional coach to help promote high quality science instruction within our school district. My journey into science education began as an undergraduate at Whittier College where I took courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. Planning to be a medical doctor, I gravitated towards coursework involving the study of animals. This stemmed from my love of nature and our annual family camping trips to Yosemite as a child. While at Whittier College I began working as a tutor and instructional aide in a local elementary school and this is where my love of science transformed into a passion for science education. The Science Circus Whittier Project has tapped into this passion and I look forward to continuing to promote meaningful ways for students and families to engage in science in the Whittier area. EWCSD Educational Support Services Home Page

Dr. Christina Bauer, Scientist

I knew I wanted to be a scientist by the time I was 8 years old when I started designing experiments and recording data in my first laboratory notebook. I am a physical chemist who dabbles in engineering, physics, nanotechnology, nuclear physics, mathematics, biology, and environmental science. Chemistry often serves as the common link between all of these fields, yet it took years of varied experiences and science wanderlust to grasp the true connections and I still continue to learn. My greatest joy is receiving “phone-a-scientist” questions and providing my particular viewpoint on a phenomenon. I believe observing the connections of all scientific fields earlier in life will help students see the central concepts and feel more at ease exploring, learning, and “talking science.” I am an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Whittier College. Whittier College Faculty Website

Katherine Christopherson, Coordinator

Growing up I was always interested in the world around me. I enjoyed going to science museums, activities and as that joy grew I became more involved in the learning and teaching behind science. I am a senior at Whittier College studying to become an elementary school teacher. I have been a mentor, volunteer, and now student coordinator for Science Circus Whittier Project. As a future educator I want to provide equitable ways to access quality science education. My goal is to help provide equitable access to fun and interactive learning that will grow the thinkers today and the scientists of the future.

Michelle Marks, Coordinator

I started working with kids around age 12, coaching gymnastics so that all kids could be successful. This experience kickstarted my passion for teaching and developing lessons that are accessible and adaptable for everyone. As a kid, I had zero interest in science and always had a mentality that I just wasn’t good at anything STEM-related. Science class was dull and strict throughout k-12, so even when I found myself interested in studying or researching something I stopped myself because I “wasn’t smart enough for science.” I still believed that up until I started working with the Science Circus Whittier Project as a student. I saw an opportunity to change that mentality for the next generation of learners and help them a strong passion for learning!

The Team

Whittier College Undergraduates interested in participating in the Science Circus Whittier Project enroll in a service-learning course offered through the Department of Education. The course highlights the untapped potential of informal STEM education. Students development various resources to be used in local schools and communities. 

How Did We Get Started?

As Lauren & Christopher worked and volunteered in local schools, they started to have regular meetings in a local coffee shop (thanks Talias!) to discuss ways to promote STEM education in local schools and the Whittier community. At first they planned after-school family STEM events with the help of Whittier College students. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began to disrupt schools and limited the opportunity for children to do hands-on STEM in schools, Lauren & Christopher wanted to figure out a way to help students and their families engage in science while at home; this included activities that families could complete with materials already on hand. And thus, the Science Circus Whittier Project was born.

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