Reflections on time at CREATE

Idit Adler, Renee Bayer, and Elliot Soloway

I thought ‘legal aliens’ only wander the streets of New York. Well... I was wrong! For three wonderful years, I myself have become a legal alien at CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University. During these three years, I met and worked with many amazing 'aliens' and 'non-aliens', as part of my position as a Postdoc in this unique institution.

It started when I met Professor Joe Krajcik, director of CREATE, during his visit to Israel as part of his ongoing collaboration with the Israeli Academy. Following his visit and a post-doctoral position becoming available, it took us a little less than two months to pack 10 suitcases, three kids, a dog, a cat, and… a husband… and join the Health in Our Hands project team in their efforts to develop an NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards)-aligned middle school science curriculum focused on genes-environment interactions, and the effect of this interaction on individual and collective health.

As you can imagine, leaving home for an international adventure is hard. Big moves are never easy, especially when they involve an entire family moving from… literally… one side of the planet to the other.  For many reasons, it is even harder for women with families than for men, in spite of the many advances in gender equity of the 21st century. But, in spite of the numerous challenges, and now being back home and looking retrospectively at the time spent at CREATE - I can wholeheartedly say – it was worth it! Our time at CREATE was an amazing experience for each and every one of our family members: My children are now fluent English speakers, which is very important in today’s global world and economics; my husband gained experience in his field of agriculture; and I received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of an NIH-SEPA (National Institute of Health Science Education Partnership Award) funded research team, and work together on an amazing science education project, which I truly believe can impact students’ lives from two crucial perspectives – education and health. As a young scholar, working with a group of international colleagues, being immersed in a different culture where people may hold different perspectives, and experiencing other ways of working and conducting research is definitely an eye-opener that will reside with me for the rest of my career and also personal life. And, of course – meeting new people and making new friendships!

Going back to Israel was both a happy and sad moment – I was happy to go back home to my family and friends, but, at the same time, sad to leave behind the wonderful work we had been doing, and the new friends and relationships. Luckily, with today’s technology, being physically away does not mean “being away”. I hope my move back home is actually the beginning of a new phase; that of international collaboration and joint effort to improve science education globally!

Thank you, dear CREATEors for a great period both personally and professionally, and I hope to see you all VERY soon!