New MaST coordinator passionate about teaching beyond classrooms
By Aline Valiente - Staff Reporter
Joanne Park designs programs and likes to teach other stu- dents, as long as it's
not in a classroom set- ting.
Park, a Southern Cal- ifornia native, is the first person to take a full-time staff position as the ed- ucation and volunteer program coordinator at Highline's MaST Center.
Park graduated from Uni- versity California Irvine and is finishing her master's degree from California State Universi- ty Long Beach. She will be con- ducting her master's thesis at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquar- ium.
Park knew it was the right time to move and decided to take the opportunity to move to Washington.
"I'm used to a lot of sun. It doesn't snow in California. I've always loved the Pacific Northwest. I have family in Portland, Oregon so I used to visit my aunt a lot and I loved seeing all the trees," Park said. "I'm not a huge fan of summers and California was like that a lot."
Park has a background in informal science, also known as museum education.
"I wanted to pursue in ma- rine biology, so that's kind of the route that I was going. I tried that out for a while and realized that the research world isn't really for me be- cause I didn't like having to sit in a lab and analyze ani- mals all day," Park said.
She found the opportunity to expand her teaching expe- rience when she read the job description for the position at the MaST Center.
Park heard about the job from an old co-worker in Cal- ifornia who saw the job de- scription, emailed it, and said it would be the perfect job for her.
"I did a lot of volunteer programs so when I read the job description, I thought it was the perfect fit," Park said. "I didn't want to be a class- room teacher but I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with students and sharing my pas- sion with them about why it's important to conserve."
The MaST Center offers a variety of programs such as Exploring the Deep and Marine Mammal mysteries for specific age ranges from kindergartners to college stu- dents.
Park recently had the op- portunity to experience ma- rine wildlife firsthand when she helped tow a dead whale to Gig Harbor with the help of
Gig Harbor Marina and Boat- yard Assists.
According to Gig Harbor Marina, the female whale was examined on Feb. 25 by Cas- cadia Research Collective, the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with assistance from Seattle Pacific University and the MaST Cen- ter from Highline.
"It was an opportunity for me to go out and see some of the things that the MaST Center does. I had never par- ticipated in anything like that so I took advantage of it and went," Park said. "We had to tie buoys around it and make sure it was going to remain in one piece by the time we got to the harbor."
Park says that marine life in Puget Sound isn't all that different from California.
"There's a lot of the same animals, just different spe-
cies. It's easy to identify the species whether it be a sea anemone or seal. The range of species is from California to Alaska."
Park discovered her love of science and education when she was 14 years old in ninth grade.
Park said it was really un- usual to pick something in high school and then keep going with it. Through volun- teering, part-time positions and internships, she figured out what her image was.
"I encourage college stu- dents to do internships and volunteer as much as you can before you enter the real world," Park said.
Park began volunteering at Back Bay Science Center in Newport Beach with the Cal- ifornia Department of Fish and Wildlife, which eventual- ly turned into an internship.
She also did an internship for Aquarium of the Pacif- ic in Long Beach, where she worked in marine mammal photo identification, collect- ed data on blue whales and in- terpreted the data to the gen- eral public, and at the Ocean Institute, where she helped design different programs.
The process of designing is coming up with a stan- dard and objectives, what she thinks the students should learn, and creating an activity that will achieve that.
"A lot of it is just trial and error. Let's say you wanted to talk about whales. You'd have to make adjustments to make it work for college groups as well as younger children," Park said.
When Park isn't busy de- signing and teaching, she en- joys camping, hiking, scuba diving, and rock climbing.