FONTANA, CA – Almeria Middle School eighth-grade science teacher Jean Yoo was recently recognized as a 2023-24 Society for Science (SFS) Lead Advocate, reflecting her commitment to science education and her passion for encouraging young students to be problem solvers and critical thinkers.
Yoo is one of 13 science educators nationwide to receive an SFS Lead Advocate designation. The honor comes with a $5,000 stipend, which will go toward facilitating Almeria science projects and acquiring the necessary materials that will allow students to succeed.
“I am humbled and inspired by this honor, just thinking of all the great things we can do this year and in future years,” Yoo said. “I encourage my students just to try. When you try, sometimes a door opens and sometimes it doesn’t, but when that door opens, it leads to another door and another. This is how you learn – you just keep trying.”
The goal of SFS Advocates is to support and encourage historically underserved and underrepresented students to pursue an education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), embark on scientific research projects and enter these projects into STEM competitions. Yoo will oversee a cohort of her advocate peers as a Lead Advocate, organizing and hosting cohort calls and discussing ways to bring more students into science programs.
Yoo has been an SFS advocate for two years. In 2022, she received a $5,000 SFS grant, which was used to purchase science research tools, such as Pocket Lab sensors to collect data for eighth-grade science experiments, and hydroponic/aeroponic gardening kits for students to investigate various agricultural techniques. These supplies supported students participating in a classroom-based NASA citizen project, Growing Beyond Earth.
Growing Beyond Earth is a NASA program for young STEM learners, introducing them to the concept of growing food in space and encouraging them to contribute their own science projects and ideas. Almeria students participated in a NASA symposium and presented evidence of their research project, which looked to determine how the duration of light affects the growth of plants.
Almeria students presented a hypothesis that equal parts of day and night – mimicking nature’s light cycle – would be the most effective method of growing plants. After weeks of testing and research, the students found that a system of 24/7 lighting brought the best results, disproving their hypothesis but impressing NASA representatives.
“It’s important for students to develop strong investigative research skills, so they can ensure the most accurate scientific outcome,” Yoo said. “The students do all the work, collect the data and come to their own conclusions. In science, you learn by doing – students don’t want to read from a book, they want to create with their own ideas and work with their classmates to find the answers. It makes science fun for them.”
Yoo began her career in education as a private music teacher; her desire to be with her children at the end of their school day inspired her to become a public school teacher and earn her math and science teaching credentials. For Yoo, the best part of being an SFS Advocate is networking with other teacher advocates with a strong passion and commitment to science.
“Jean Yoo is a tireless advocate for science education who is committed to seeing our students challenge themselves and achieve at the highest levels,” Almeria Principal Dr. Kim Hall said. “Jean has transformed the Almeria science culture on campus, encouraging all students to explore new worlds in which they can be innovators and bring a positive change to their community and beyond.”
FUSD_YOO: Almeria Middle School eighth-grade science teacher Jean Yoo welcomes Jadin Sanchez, left, and Michael Uribe, right, to class. Yoo has been named a 2023-24 Society for Science Lead Advocate, and is one of just 13 science educators nationwide to receive the designation.