Susan Dorsey graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a Masters in Biological Sciences from Miami Universityin Oxford, Ohio in the Global Field Program. She hasreceived the 2019 Eastern Region Museum Education Art Educator Award and the 2017 Maryland Art Museum Educator of the Year Award. Susan is passionate about discovering and implementing visionary approaches to education that provide real-world experiences. As a museum educator, she is passionate about facilitating interdisciplinary educational experiences for PreK-12thgrade students locally and globally, that spark excitement, curiosity, and creative thinking. Susan maintains a reflective practice informed by equity research and has a drive to innovate. She combines her art and science backgrounds while cultivating partnerships to develop programs focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education.

After becoming a National Geographic Certified Educator, Susan had the opportunity to test out and advise on a fledgling National Geographic Education program that paired National Geographic Explorers with educators to collaborate throughout the school year. Learn more about this collaboration on Susan’s blog, Exploring through Education

Susan Dorsey explaining to Sciencing Out Program how art and science are connected

More about Susan…

ExploH – What motivates you in your work?

Growing up, I struggled to maintain focus and be inspired in the classroom. I was a mover, a maker, and an outdoor explorer. I found that these qualities were not only encouraged but nurtured in the art room. So I use the creative process as my framework for exploring the world around me. I learned so much through observation while creating landscape paintings outdoors, but struggled to memorize facts and learn only from the books in science classes. I eventually realized that I had found my own path to science learning through the creative process. This was profound because I had written off science as something that wasn’t for me. As a result, bridging these gaps for students is my passion and empowers them as changemakers by demonstrating that there are multiple pathways towards learning a subject. Cultural objects, student perspectives, and creative interactions with the natural world fuel my work. 

ExploH – What do you like the most in your job?

I enjoy discovering the potential for education while learning from others in my work. Creating innovative approaches to support student learning is what drives me. I am inspired by opportunities to break the boundaries of interdisciplinary learning and forge collaborations that increase student interest. Watching students grow and respond to the educational experiences I create is extremely meaningful and motivates me each day. I am passionate about combining my art and science backgrounds as a means of storytelling to discover and implement visionary approaches to educational practice. Integrating art and science topics is important to me because I have experienced how this fusion increases access to knowledge.

ExploH – Can you tell us an anecdote that marked you most in your work?

Recently I embarked on collaboration with Valerie Clark, PhD and the Indigenous Research Organization for Global Sustainability where we connected 1st-grade students in Baltimore City and through live video exchanges. Throughout the different components of the program, we discussed animals, habitats, language and culture, lemur conservation, cultural objects, and created artwork. Watching the young scholars interact with each other and become enraptured in this exchange was so amazing! I hope to create more experiences and connections like this for students.

ExploH – What is your teaching philosophy as an educator?

My mission is to inspire curiosity and creativity by combining my art and science backgrounds. 

As a Museum Educator, I seek to broaden global understanding through exposure to cultural objects from around the world through inquiry, critical thinking, and hands-on learning. My future goals include building a framework for museum-school partnerships that connect students to field experts and cross-cultural exchange while incorporating critical investigation of the links between historical exploration, museum collecting, and colonization.

ExploH – If you were an animal/plant/or work of art, what will you be? why?

If I were an animal, I would be a Blue Whale. I think this may be because of my experience navigating life as a small woman whose experience and knowledge is constantly questioned as a result. I wonder what it would be like to be as big as a Blue Whale? 

ExploH – What do you find the most challenging in your work?

I find that advocating for innovative, interdisciplinary education initiatives among organizational leaders who may not understand how multiple subjects connect, or the positive impacts that this educational approach can have on student learning to be a challenge. Also, continually pushing myself outside of my comfort zone is challenging, but in so many great ways.Risk-taking through the facilitation of new curriculum can be exhausting because it requires a lot of energy and time amidst a plethora of other responsibilities. It also demands failure and growth, which can be mentally taxing. However, the results are always worth it! Embarking on this process through collaborative relationships brings support and new expertise that invigorates the process.  

ExploH – If you weren’t an educator, what you would like to be?

If I was not an educator, I would like to be a marine biologist and/or a wildlife film expert. I love exploring marine ecosystems, observing nature, and visiting places I haven’t been before. Although I do have trouble sitting still, so I might not be the best wildlife videographer.  

ExploH – Who is your role model?

There are so many who have impacted my work as an educator which makes it challenging to list one role model. However, in 2019, I attended a conference where I had the privilege of hearing Jaclyn Roessel, founder of Grown Up Navajo, speak about how museums can perpetuate harm due to their history as colonial structures and their practices of dehumanization. Her knowledge has helped me critically reflect upon my work as a Museum Educator while listening to perspectives that have historically been silenced in order to change harmful practices and recognize multiple global narratives. Along with Roessel, I am inspired by the work of Cultural Strategist and Educator Keonna Hendrick and The Incluseum, a platform for critical dialogue about museum practice. Their work has helped me to realize when I have more to learn than give and to remain teachable while understanding that within every interaction, there are opportunities to empower, support, and listen.  

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