Discovering Science

New Science Complex seen as a magnet for the next generation of STEM experts

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Teczon Ashlee

Ashlee Teczon


s an eighth grader, Ashlee Teczon didn’t realize her female biology teacher would turn out to be her role model. Teczon just knew she liked asking science questions and assisting in the occasional dissection.

Today she is a high school science teacher herself, determined to spark an interest in science among her own pupils. The key, she says, is to get to them early on and help them find their niche.

“I have students who think science isn’t for them but who love video games. I tell them you can be a gamer, you can go into programming, you can be in computer science, you can develop an app.”

Teczon adds, “It’s one thing to explain concepts to them but sometimes they need something tangible. They really need to see what we’re talking about. Then, all of a sudden, you see the synapses going off and that they’re understanding.”

I want to motivate (kids) to think ‘I, too, can have a career in science someday.’”

Getting kids interested in science has long-term implications, says William DeGraffenreid, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Sacramento State. Not only does California have a demand for health care workers and engineers to meet its workforce needs, there is a shortage of science teachers like Teczon.

“With the increased emphasis on applied and interdisciplinary sciences, having people with a broad understanding of science is very important so that we can educate the next generation of scientists and engineers,” DeGraffenreid says. “We also need to educate the general public so that they can be informed citizens.”

To spark interest in science among her high schoolers, Tezcon’s approaches include a botany exercise where students plant and harvest their own vegetables in a campus garden and “building” DNA out of pipe cleaners. DeGraffenreid thinks the new planetarium and observatory in the upcoming Science Complex can have much the same effect.

“In terms of inspiring tomorrow’s Sac State students, that’s going to come from giving them the opportunity to come and learn a little about science,” DeGraffenreid says. “Fresno State has a similar planetarium and they see that following a school group visit, the kids want to come back with their parents. They’re seeing things that they don’t quite understand but they are excited and want to know more. It’s very inspiring.

“Do I think the planetarium is going to double the number of physics majors? No,” he says. “But it’s going to make people think about science, which is ultimately the most important thing.”

The Science Complex also offers an opportunity to reach out to underrepresented populations.

“I’m really excited about the potential to share this kind of programming with kids from places where they maybe haven’t had the opportunity to experience it before,” DeGraffenreid

To learn more about the Science Complex at Sacramento State, contact Jennifer Navarro at (916) 278-6288 or or visit