I spent a little less than two years in the Exploratorium's Teacher Institute. Below is a short description of what this position did for me as a young scientist, from the report for the NSF-IPSE grant that sponsored the position.
My experience as an IPSE fellow at the Exploratorium launched me on a fulfilling and intensely interesting career in science education. Prior to my work at the museum, I only knew that I was interested in bringing science to the public. The museum afforded me a glimpse into a wide variety of science education and outreach projects -- websites for the public, floor programs and exhibits, visitor research, adult programs, training for professional developers and, of course, creating and presenting workshops to K12 science teachers. There could have been no better laboratory for me to dabble in a wide variety of forums, and gain a broad perspective on the landscape of science education.
From my seat in the Teacher Institute, I also learned the types of lessons that would stick with me for (I hope) life -- the power of tight-knit collaborations, and of communities of learners, of curiosity and hands-on engagement with phenomena to further understanding of the natural world. I came to appreciate the depth of understanding necessary to teach, the challenge of teaching teachers, as well as the challenges that those teachers face in their jobs. I have continued in teacher professional development as a main thrust to my career -- despite the fact that I didn't even know this field existed before employment at the Exploratorium.
I remain permanently inspired by my time at the Exploratorium, and in my current work as a self-employed consultant in science education, I try to continue in the vein of what I learned in the Teacher Institute -- to work hard, find the ideas that spark the imagination, and enjoy what we do immensely. Thus, at the Exploratorium, I found both the mission that is driving my career (teacher professional development), as well as the philosophy to do it well and with relish. I hope that other young scientists might have the opportunity to gain such benefits from the incredible community at the museum as a whole and the Teacher Institute in particular.