To learn and have fun
By Maria Blackburn

Video: Matt Bowden | CTY Communications

When it comes to teaching CTY students all they need to know about 4 billion years of life on Earth, Summer Programs instructor Christine Metzger isn’t afraid of looking silly. Stop by the paleobiology class Metzger teaches at our Los Angeles site and you might find her enthusiastically belting out a song about decomposition, presiding over a game of “Evolutionary Red Light Green Light,” or thundering around her lab like a bipedal dinosaur, a velociraptor skull on her head.

“My teaching philosophy is to learn and have fun at the same time because eventually the two become seamless,” says Metzger, a college environmental science professor who began work as a CTY instructor in 2005. “My CTY students learn so much better if I’m really dynamic and passionate and willing to take risks and embarrass myself. I don’t see a separation between creative things and scientific things. I learn better when I’m having fun, and I think my students do, too.”

Her insight into how CTY students learn isn’t just rooted in her years of teaching: She’s a CTYer herself.

In June 1992, Metzger, then a shy 12-year-old, flew 2,400 miles across the country alone to attend her first CTY summer program, a writing class at the Los Angeles site where she now teaches. There she discovered new authors, made new friends, and became more confident and outgoing. “CTY gave me the sense that I could be part of a community of learners. It also taught me that if I was willing I could really expose myself to all sorts of exciting, new, challenging, and creative things.”

She cried when it was time to go home. “I knew I wanted to come back to CTY as soon as I left.”

Metzger participated in summer programs for three more years, returned as a teaching assistant in 2001, and then became an instructor. “CTY was such a huge, huge part of my formative years and I think it is part of why I’m a really passionate learner today, and why I’m open to learning new things and meeting new people,” she says. “Being a CTY instructor makes me feel like I’m giving all of that back to CTY.”