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Earth Day was celebrated around the world April 22nd with passionate science advocates raising awareness and appreciation for the environment. Among those voices was Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA) 5th grader Katie Oyler.

Katie was invited to speak at the Phoenix March for Science in front of about 3,000 people.

“I found out that there were openings for speakers, and I was a little scared at first because I would be speaking in front of so many people!” Katie said. “But then I realized, that there were no other kids up there like me. People talk about kids all the time, so why can’t a kid talk about science? I wanted to talk about what kids like me think about science and why it’s important for us, and I thought we should have a voice in this too.”

Katie took the time in her speech to explain how kids should be introduced to science and find ways to explore in their communities. She emphasized that kids have an important voice in shaping the future of the world.

“I’ve been exploring the world through the lens of science with my daughter since she was about three years old,” Katie’s mother and Learning Coach, Amy said. “We’ve taken a very hands on approach to our questions as we learn about the world around us. We’ve lived through the idea that even the simplest of questions can lead you on an epic journey of learning and discovery! With our explorations, we’ve come up with some fascinating and fun experiments. We’ve met scientists and professors to talk about what they’re doing in the world. We’ve even begun sharing what we’re doing at home with kids in our community!”

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Katie Oyler getting ready to speak to the audience at the Phoenix March for Science.

Amy and Katie even have a website called The Scientific Mom where they do experiments, share their findings, and share fun projects for others to do from their own home!

“The website was started to share the science experiments and learning adventures we had been doing with friends and family,” Amy said. “Now, we’re sharing our experiments with the world! We encourage kids and families to explore science with fun hands on experiments that they can do at home, to explore more about the world around them. Now, Katie and I have begun taking our experiments to the set of NBC Channel 12’s Arizona Midday, where we conduct experiments on live television! We’re also heavily involved in our community, bringing our experiments to the Burton Barr Library, to share with the kids there.”

Amy enrolled Katie at AZVA for the 2016 school year. She didn’t want her daughter to learn just from a textbook, she wanted her to explore and learn from experiences.

“She had been home-schooled for the duration of her school years, so we could focus on learning through experience, finding mentors in various fields of interest, and explore the world of science with flexibility in education,” Amy said.

AZVA has given Katie the opportunity of a flexible schedule while entering into a public school setting.

“Katie and I have always followed whatever sparks of curiosity that have piqued our interest,” Amy said. “If we have a question, we go out into our neighborhood, city, or travel around the state to find the answers to our questions! Sometimes this takes us to a university, or out in the field to study geology, or even to hang out with astronomers, using their giant telescopes to observe the planets in the solar system! The world is our classroom, and our questions can often lead us onto some incredible adventures. I hope that this is something that she’ll take with her for a long time, as she continues to follow her passions and curiosity throughout her life.”

Amy loves the online learning style and schedule for her daughter because the flexibility of the time spent in her classes allows them to take a hands on approach with her education while still getting structured curriculum.

“My teachers are great, the class connect sessions are fun and easy to understand, but still give me quite a challenge!” Katie said. “I still have the time to pursue my own interests but AZVA allows me to find new interests that I can enjoy too, like speaking on Earth Day!”

Watch Katie’s speech at the Phoenix March for Science here.

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