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The Power of Leadership

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Berkeley chapter.

Glass beakers came crashing down and the chloride solution sprayed everywhere. My Elementary Science Field Day (ESFD) students immediately began blaming each other for misreading the experiment procedure or simply not paying attention. 

At every ESFD practice, similar battles erupted from minor accidents. Everyone, including myself, lost interest in the science competition. As the coach, I gradually put less effort into the team. I began teaching the curriculum half-heartedly. I depended on students to self-learn the material and failed to voice my expectations. Test scores never impressed me and winning became an impossible concept. 

Without a second thought, all my students quit ESFD. This sudden change made me reconsider my role as their coach. To be frank, memorizing chemical reactions or math equations served no purpose if it was solely to win. For the whole team to succeed, I had to build a collaborative and efficient learning environment that fosters intrinsic motivation: to enjoy the fight, not just the victory. 

In the following years, I worked with each student, understanding which learning techniques best suited them. WIth one student, I played scavenger hunts to learn photosynthesis. With another student, I created picture collages to model constellations. Practices turned into celebrations where learning became a pleasure, not a burden. I was not regurgitating words from the textbook anymore. Rather, I was creating value in science. 

Woman looking into microscope
Photo by Trust \"Tru\" Katsande on Unsplash

One time, each student became molecules in the intricate game of the Krebs Cycle. I, the intermediate enzymatic reaction, ensured everyone carried out their “molecular role” and worked together to generate ATP (cellular energy). Interactive lessons like these made me grasp the importance of engaging each team member. 

Becoming more accountable for my actions refined my teaching methods and drove students to learn for knowledge rather than the prize. From breaking beakers to breaking winning records, my students blossomed into genuine learners. Earning first place in every event for the last five years at ESFD San Diego County was just the beginning. 

Smriti Panchal

UC Berkeley '24

Smriti is a freshman at UC Berkeley double majoring in Nutritional Science with emphasis on Physiology & Metabolism and Anthropology. She is a passionate, driven leader who enjoys public speaking, creating art, networking with her community. Her goals are to provide the maximum happiness to the maximum number of people through her work.
Samhita Sen

UC Berkeley '21

Samhita (she/her pronouns) graduated in December 2021 from UC Berkeley with a double major in Communication/Media Studies and Sociology. At any given moment, she may be frantically writing an essay, carelessly procrastinating by watching Claire Saffitz on YouTube or spending time with people she loves.