Refueling My Passion for Really Good Science Education

By Libby Grace


Libby works with two teachers during a Scientifically Connected Communities workshop.


Three years ago, I was a frustrated middle school science teacher. Having just completed Teach for America in Chicago, I found myself shocked at the status of science education in public schools. A lack of resources, and optimism, made meeting the needs of my students feel unattainable. When I applied for the Science Education Specialist position at the Asombro Institute for Science Education, I wanted to get back to my roots: outdoor environmental education. I envisioned spending my days sauntering through the desert, identifying the plants and animals with kiddos in tow.


Little did I know, I would spend most at Asombro days right back in public middle school classrooms; only this time I would gain an entirely different perspective. Class by class, I learned what really good science education looks like and was reminded that it can take place inside a public school classroom.


Since I started working at Asombro, I have been amazed by the capacity of this organization. In just three years, a small, dedicated staff has increased the population served annually by more than 5,000 students. Through carefully built partnerships, Asombro works with every 7th and 8th grade student in Las Cruces Public Schools at least once each year. This has continued to build; Asombro will be seeing every 9th and 10th grade student in Las Cruces Public Schools for the 2018-19 school year. In addition, Asombro leads many other education programs across all grade levels, develops engaging curriculum, writes grant proposals, and facilitates teacher workshops. For the past 18 years, Director Stephanie Bestelmeyer, with the help of a dedicated Board of Directors and amazing crew of volunteers, has steadily laid the groundwork for Asombro to become part of the foundation of science education in Las Cruces and across the state of New Mexico. I am overjoyed that this region has such an incredible resource to support science education through the Asombro Institute for Science Education.


While here, I have been exposed to partnerships with local schools that benefit both students and teachers alike. I often find myself wondering about the students I worked with in Chicago, and all of the other students across the country that do not have access to rigorous and engaging science education. I was teaching them only three years ago.

Libby Grace and executive director, Steph Bestelmeyer, prepare for the Desert Data Jam in 2018.


What about these students?


What about these teachers?


Do they have their own Asombro?


If not, how can we build one?



These are the questions that have driven me to pursue my PhD in Science Education. I am nothing short of inspired by the work of the Asombro Institute for Science Education, and I excitedly look to carry this inspiration forward as I explore these important partnerships between science institutions and public schools.


Libby congratulates a participant during the New Mexico Climate Champions.

I’ve often said that Asombro brought to light things that I never knew I was passionate about. I never expected to reignite a desire to be in middle school classrooms. I never expected facilitating teacher workshops to be so thought provoking and reflective. I never expected data literacy in K-12 education to become so important to me. Yet, my most memorable teaching moments have occurred while struggling through science data with 7th graders. Ask anyone at Asombro: I love Data Jam.


The same way we hope Asombro programs fuel a passion for science in our students, working for Asombro has fueled my passion for really good science education that is accessible to all students. For that, and so much more, I am eternally grateful.


The experiences that I have been lucky enough to be a part of with Asombro are invaluable to me. If, down the line, I can say that I have made even half of the impact that Asombro makes in students’ and teachers’ lives, I will be satisfied. As I move forward, I only hope that I can represent this organization with the integrity, grit, and perseverance that it deserves. Although, professionally, this is my departure from Asombro, my true hope is that it will be a continuation of the principles I’ve learned in this great organization.


So, rather than a farewell, here’s to even more partnerships for the betterment of science education for students everywhere! I cannot extend enough thanks to everyone that has supported me along the way.



Libby Grace is moving to Vancouver, WA to pursue a PhD in Mathematics and Science Education at Washington State University. She intends to focus her work on building bridges between informal and formal science education.