Pat Kociolek: Thank You VI

by doodaddy on November 6, 2007


Diatoms are little tiny plants. (Really tiny — that’s an electron micrograph!) Without ’em you’d have not too much to breathe. That’s all you really need to know. But if you ever want to know more, ask me.

Today I thank another teacher, but not a classroom teacher. John Patrick Kociolek is the diatom curator (yep, that’s what I said) at the California Academy of Sciences, a science museum where I was a volunteer docent during college.

I’d always loved marine biology — remember how I wanted to buy a dolphin? — but got turned off of it by a bad experience involving wholesale live flatfish slaughter by a callous marine biologist. (Long story.) So in school I studied drama instead. (Short story: that’s where the girls were at.)

After college I was pretty disappointed in myself. I could have been a scientist, you know? And although I liked being a docent, wandering around a natural history museum explaining things to bored middle-schoolers was nothing like real science, right?

Well, in 1993, Pat Kociolek gave a lecture to us docents that explained it all, as far as I was concerned. Over three hours, apart from brilliantly distilling the concept of diatoms, Dr. K. convinced me that every single layer of science matters to the whole picture — research is important, sure, but so is teaching, and even the kind of "informal" science education I was doing as a docent.

I was sold. I’ve been an "informal science educator" ever since: docent, naturalist, whale watch guide, youth mentor, marine educator. So, here’s today’s thank-you in my month of thank-yous:

Thanks, Pat Kociolek!

Funny thing is, he has no idea what an impact he had on me. That’s an interesting twist to this teaching gig — a lot of the good we do is completely invisible to us at the time. We teachers just have to close our eyes and know (hope?) that our charges someday make something useful out of the information we impart.

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in A Month of Thank-Yous ·

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn November 7, 2007 at 7:41 pm

You could always send him the thank you….

Yeah, that’s an interesting idea — I could actually thank a *lot* of these people. (The live ones, anyway…)

I’m, however… a putz. I’d be nervous to get in touch; it’s not like I know him or anything.




Elaine Hooton November 8, 2007 at 7:46 am

“a lot of the good we do is” what? Was there more to that sentence? You’re keeping me in suspense!!!

Sorry — editing error! (Darn that cut-and-paste!) All fixed now. –Dd.


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