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Written by Aaron Straka, Volunteer Programs Assistant
"Forget the books, tasks, the homework; play with it and figure it out."
Carolyn Ocampo is a dynamic and articulate educator as well as an active volunteer since 2008. An avid supporter for the Museum, she enjoys the difference in environment between her classroom and the Museum setting. There is always pressure to learn in a school environment; Carolyn, however, appreciates the relaxed atmosphere children experience to explore within the museum. "It's learning without pressure," she adds, smiling.
Carolyn teaches at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School as a chemistry teacher. Learning—Carolyn's clear passion—has been amplified by her volunteer experience at the museum. She flourishes in environments where she is able to work with youth. Enjoying the diverse population that visits the museum, she herself works with kids of many ethnicities in the classroom. It is clear Carolyn has a deep appreciation for education demonstrated by her active participation in a program called "A Better Chance." In this program, students of color are fostered and supported throughout high school to receive an education that will improve their pathway to higher education. Carolyn highly values the learning environment in which all kids are allowed at the Museum, which is why she is so involved in bettering the opportunity kids have to education.
Originally from Washington State, Carolyn's education brought her to Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree from Carleton College and her master's degree from Hamline University. Before her interest in chemistry, Carolyn had a deep interest in history—specifically, the Civil War. Before any University studies, she longed to be a history professor specializing in the Civil War. "I dreamed of traveling to Asia and Africa to expand my historical perspective and feed my education on an international level," she explained. To this day, she holds on to the prospect of spending time exploring and learning in other countries. She is still fascinated by history today though she teaches chemistry.
Her first exposure to science was in high school while she apprenticed at NASA working with shuttle parts and testing. There, she became fascinated with the science of technology and also learned she was not interested in engineering. Alongside her passion for complicated topics, she enjoyed creative problem solving and completing puzzles called Odyssey of the Mind. This helped Carolyn develop her structured, concrete mind that she uses daily in teaching and is seen to share frequently at the Museum.
Though Carolyn's expertise lies in chemistry, she does remember one exhibit she thoroughly enjoyed with a friend many years ago: Magic, the Science of Illusion. In this exhibit, visitors were directed by arrows on the floor to navigate through the gallery. Unfortunately, her friend did not follow the arrows correctly and ended up confusing not only Carolyn, but other visitors in the exhibit. Though some of the magic may have been lost during the experience, Carolyn remembers this exhibit as her favorite.
Like all volunteers, Carolyn devotes much of her time to the advancement of a selfless gift: knowledge. What makes Carolyn stand out is her deep appreciation and zealous support for equal knowledge for all children. Her goal is to spread the most education to all kids that will listen, and she works and volunteers in the best places to do just that.