Planting seeds

Published 10:45 pm Saturday, October 18, 2014

As you’ll likely recall from your own childhood, adults love to ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Perhaps you surprised folks by stating an uncommon goal, such as becoming a judge or a race car driver or even a circus lion tamer, rather than a doctor, a lawyer or a police officer. Perhaps you’ve surprised yourself by going into a profession that was far removed from those early ambitions such as an auto mechanic instead of an architect, or an insurance agent instead of a schoolteacher.

Such a question doesn’t just serve to start a conversation. It can also inspire dreams and ambitions.

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For the past several days, schools throughout the commonwealth have been doing their part to inspire dreams and ambitions by participating in Virginia Career Week, Oct. 12-18. This week is especially intended to encourage students in the elementary, middle and high schools to consider and explore the work they want to do later in life.

On Friday, a couple of employees of BASF did their part to encourage and inspire a new generation of potential chemical engineers and, of all things, candy makers during a visit to Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

Chemist Nate Griggs and administrative assistant Joyce Riddick visited Teresa Abdulbaaqee’s fifth-grade classroom with two experiments, one demonstrating chromatography, a technique used in the lab to separate the components of a mixture, and the second turning a bottle of soda into a volcano using candy.

The program was a perfect segue from Virginia Career Week to National Science Week, which takes place Oct. 19-26 under the theme “The Sweet Side of Candy.”

The nation is sorely in need of skilled and intelligent young people willing to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, and if it takes bribing youngsters with the promise of having fun with candy to accomplish that goal, then it’s probably still a worthwhile approach.

Such events do much to open the eyes of young students to the wide world of opportunity available to them if they pursue their education with a goal of excellence. Many of those opportunities would be unknown to students without such interactions with real people willing to serve as role models and mentors.

Kudos to those who take their time to give young students such experiences. They truly are planting seeds for a better future.