As a senior scientist at the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Morris Aizenman was used to dealing with the complexities of astronomy, astrophysics and earth sciences. His office funded research aimed at making fundamental discoveries about the universe and the scientific laws that govern it.
But some of the most challenging questions he gets these days come from curious seven-year-olds. Aizenman has been volunteering his services at Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, Va., as part of a AAAS-sponsored program to put retired and working science professionals into classrooms to help teachers and to interest students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Besides helping with labs and other classroom activities, Aizenman is available to students for one-on-one tutoring. "This is the most fun of all," he said at the 30 May annual meeting of the Senior Scientists and Engineers (SSE) STEM Volunteer Program. "I have no idea what question they are going to ask, and when they sit down they want and expect an answer." One seven-year-old asked him "What is space?"