Smithsonian Latino Center

Love What You Do and Give Back

Young Ambassador Samantha meeting with individuals that work at the museum. Courtesy of the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose.
Young Ambassador Samantha meeting with individuals that work at the museum. Courtesy of the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose.

My second week at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose is just as I thought it would be - completely unpredictable. I have a schedule that gives a basic description of what I will be doing each day, but never did I imagine that in between greeting school groups and conducting interviews, I would learn something about myself and who I want to be.

Throughout the week, I have been meeting with several different people in a variety of positions here at the museum to conduct interviews about what kind of work each person does here at the museum. I have met with program developers, technicians, directors, managers, and more always asking at least these three basic questions: What is your role within the museum? What characteristic of yours is most needed for your job? Lastly, what is your personal mission/purpose for your work? Other questions I ask vary on whom I am speaking to, but for each person I've always asked these three, and with each person, the questions revealed a passion for what they did. I could see the commitment to their work in their eyes, but when each person began talking about why they did what they did and which characteristic of theirs helps and drives them to do what they do, I realized that whatever work I go into, I want to be that passionate about it. Hearing each person's stories of how they got to where they are now made me think that this is possible for as well.

The interviews started on Tuesday, but an artist, Julia Anne Goodman, came to the museum to conduct a special event in the Art Loft prior to that on papermaking. Children came in to blend up recycled paper (yes, in an actual blender), pour it into a butterfly mold, and create their own paper butterfly. This activity not only was entertaining for the children, but it sparked conversations of migration. The kids and their families were asked about where they came from, and families began to explain about the different areas of the world they originated from.

Migration discussion during paper-making art activity with children and their families. (Courtesy of Samantha Rodriguez.)

This activity also helped me practice Spanish. While kids were waiting in line, I would ask them questions about the butterfly they were going to make. Some kids came in speaking only Spanish, and when I asked them these same questions in Spanish, I saw their faces light up and they brought their butterfly to life.

The Guadalupe River is near the museum, a favorite among the people who work in Environmental Education at the museum. After an interview with the Associate Director of Environmental Education, I networked with someone who works in that department to test the water of that river. The testing process is not long; however, it is important for it to be done throughout the year to monitor the health of the river. We tested PH levels, river flow, clarity, and DO levels in the water. It was an interesting experience for me and helped me understand projects the museum does outside of its own walls.

Testing water of the Guadalupe River near the museum, learned about the importance of monitoring the health of the river. (Courtesy of Samantha Rodriguez.)

Overall, this week has had a very large impact on my life. The informational interviews I have done have shown me the passion the people who work here have for their job and I felt myself resonate with a lot of the stories and backgrounds I heard. I don't know what I'm going to do when I'm older – I doubt anyone really ever does – but I have always known that I would not be happy with myself unless I was doing something for other people. In these past few days, I have seen so many different ways in which people have managed to do what they love and still give back. I don't know what my journey is going to be like, but just from talking with so many different kinds of people, I've been able to reassure myself that I can study what I want to study and still find a way to share what I know and give opportunities no matter what I become. This concept was first introduced to me during Washington Week on that last Friday, but I was not sure if I could believe it 100%. However, after just this one week, I have never felt more at peace with not knowing for sure what I am going to do, and have learned to look beyond this and search for more opportunities along the way.

Specific equipment used to test the water of the Guadalupe River. (Courtesy of Samantha Rodriguez.)
Lauren McCawley, BioSITE Educator, teaching the procedure used to test the PH levels, river flow, clarity, and DO levels of the Guadalupe River. (Courtesy of Samantha Rodriguez.)