TCI Employee Interview Double Feature: Ari Stein and Rebecca Ou

If you have ever used any of our Bring Science Alive! programs, you are probably familiar with Ari and Rebecca who model the investigations in our demonstration videos. But did you know that they play key roles in creating these programs? Read further to discover the true extent of what they do to help bring science alive.

What are your roles here at TCI?

Ari: This is always hard to describe. I am the Managing Science Editor, so in addition to directly editing several physical science programs, I work closely with the other program editors by reviewing the texts of all the programs for pedagogical approach, structural clarity, and accuracy. I also collaborate with curriculum developers to design activities.

Rebecca: My title at TCI is Senior Science Editor, and my work is very similar to Ari’s with a greater focus on the actual textbooks and writing. I am the primary editor of two future science programs, Matter and Space. I also manage our summer interns and work closely with the teachers who review our curriculum.

What does a regular workflow look like for you?

Rebecca: It varies. We are working on multiple programs at a time, so some weeks are devoted specifically to editing and reviewing manuscripts, while other weeks we focus on lesson development.

Ari: We’ll use PowerPoint storyboarding for our lessons and research to find assets. For investigations, once we have an idea, we take it to our investigation team for further development.

Rebecca: Our investigation team is pretty special.  It’s a small group, only seven of us, and as a result we are able to work very closely together. Instead of just presenting finished projects to the group, when we get together we have working meetings to really hammer out an activity. Even if not everyone can meet for every activity, it is a great way of exchanging ideas and coming up with something new.

How long is the process to finish an investigation?

Ari:  Well, the timeline for an activity to be developed enough for us to start testing outside of the department is about three weeks to a month. At that point, we test the activity together with TCI staff and in pilot classrooms. Afterwards, development goes on hold while we work with our vendors for the materials, and then it is another three weeks to send it to production.

Rebecca: I would agree. In total, the process is about six to eight weeks.

How did you initially join TCI?

Ari: Craigslist. I started working at TCI soon after I graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in Physics. This was when the science programs were just starting development; I was actually the second science employee hired by TCI.

Rebecca: I heard about TCI through Ari. We were friends in college; I stayed behind to continue my studies in chemistry and earn a Master’s. It turned out to be a perfect fit with my areas of interest: in addition to my major in Chemistry, I minored in Writing and worked on a research project for teaching chemistry through alternative media methods.

Has your role evolved since you’ve been at TCI?

Ari: Definitely. I was initially hired as a fact checker. As time went on, it became clear that I was good at editing and had a lot of ideas for the programs, so my role and responsibilities expanded from there.

Rebecca: I also started as fact checker, and then shuffled back and forth between lesson development and editorial work before settling into my current position.

What is your favorite aspect of developing the science curriculum? Any favorite activities?

Ari: It would have to be the brainstorming and finding novel ways to teach and explain science concepts. For a specific activity, there is a Performance Assessment I am currently working on where students have to save a restaurant from falling off a cliff into the ocean. I’m looking forward to seeing students work with it.

Rebecca: I really enjoy editorial, especially the freedom in choosing how to convey a subject so that it is coherent and grade-level appropriate, while still being challenging and meeting the requirements of NGSS. My favorite activity is also one for a future program; it will have students acting as interns for the International Astronauts Union, and their goal is to gather data from our solar system to support different theories about what defines a planet.

What do you do outside of TCI?

Ari: I’m a mentor for The Illuminators, Apollo High School’s robotics team. We just had our final competition, the FIRST Robotics Competition last weekend. I play board games, rock-climb, and I also practice glassblowing. In general, I like challenging things.

Rebecca: I like to go to the opera and ballet. I also rock climb, though not as often anymore. I write fiction and recently I have gotten more invested in video games.