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Humans of the Science Center: Maya Heiland

Next week, she’s embarking on a beekeeping adventure in her own backyard. During the work week, Maya Heiland spends her time inspiring students to tap into their curiosity as Program Manager for FirstHand. Prior to joining the FirstHand team in 2014, Maya led students through caves and aquifer systems, up rock walls and onto river islands. She’s a top-notch facilitator and encourages interactive learning both inside and outside of the lab. Her favorite part about working for the Science Center? Find out in our Q&A below.

When did you first become interested in science?

Well, science is really about figuring out how and why things do what they do. So I guess once the world became a thing I could question, I became interested in science. I remember catching fireflies when I was really little and just staring at them for a long, long time. I remember thinking - how is this possible? How can this possibly be real?

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I have two parts. The opportunity to keep learning and teaching myself new things that are interesting is important to my sanity and life force. And the other, duh, is seeing a student just beaming with pride after finishing a FirstHand program. Watching our FirstHand promotion video gets me teary-eyed every time.

What have you learned from the students you teach?

I have learned that creating a space, both physical and emotional, where creativity and risk taking is encouraged, allows the imagination to truly prosper. I’ve also learned the many, many meanings of the word “smart.” FirstHand students have showed me so many displays of brilliance that are both conventional and unconventional. Kids have a sensitivity that is unparalleled to adults and is something we could all stand to learn from.

If you could instill one lesson for all the students you interact with, what would it be?

There are situations that should be reserved for quiet observation but most ideas require us to dig in, pull it apart, and experience it, before we can fully understand it.

What do you like to do when you’re not in the FirstHand Lab or at the Science Center?

I just finished working a second job giving weekend tours of this crazy concrete castle in Doylestown. Telling stories about the history and architecture of one beautiful building was really fun. I'm about to embark on a beekeeping adventure next week. Soon there will be thousands of bees living in my yard and maybe, just maybe, I'll have honey in a few months.