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Teaching on the Wild Side: Danielle Freiermuth ’15

Danielle Freirmuth ’15 on the job at Walt Disney World.

As a conservation educator for Walt Disney World, life science education alum Danielle Freiermuth ’15 teaches kids about animals while strapped in a harness and climbing across rope bridges on Animal Kingdom’s Wild Africa Trek. But before she landed her somewhat unconventional dream teaching job, she had to take a risk of another kind.

Shortly after graduating from Bethel, Freiermuth moved from Minnesota to Orlando, Florida, with the intention of finding a job at Disney World. “I thought, ‘To work as an educator for Animal Kingdom is the dream. It’s never going to happen, but it’s the dream.’ I decided I would try anyway,” says Freiermuth. She first took a job as an attractions hostess at Splash Mountain, hoping to eventually connect with Disney’s education department.

After four months spent making sure guests had their lap bars down on the Splash Mountain log flume ride at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Freiermuth was hired to do what she’s truly passionate about: teaching. Freiermuth got connected to Disney’s Youth Education Series (Y.E.S.), teaching kids about physics and chemistry. “It’s incredibly important for kids to learn experientially as well as from a textbook,” says Freiermuth. “That’s where the passion is born, I think: when they get to experience an elephant up close, or learn about the physics that make a roller coaster work—and then actually go and ride one. There’s immediate engagement with the material.”

Through Y.E.S., Freiermuth began leading groups for the Properties of Motion Physics Lab at Magic Kingdom, the Everyday Chemistry program at Epcot, and the Energy and Waves Lab at Magic Kingdom. “I love that ‘a-ha!’ moment with kids, when the material clicks and they understand,” Freiermuth says. She went on to lead groups with Disney’s Wild Africa Trek, eventually becoming a conservation educator for Animal Kingdom.

Freiermuth’s journey as an educator seems straightforward in retrospect, but Freiermuth confides that the original decision to move was a difficult one. “I had to consider long and hard about Disney World. With graduating and moving forward I had to think, ‘What do I actually want to do? Where am I going? What do I want my life to look like?’” she says. “I still don’t know the answers, but I know I want to glorify God by inspiring others about God’s creation. I try to look at my life through this lens and keep asking, ‘Is this glorifying and honoring to God?’”

Freiermuth planned to major in biology when she first came to Bethel, but a conversation with her advisor, Professor of Science Education Patricia Paulson, shifted her focus. “I told her, ‘I don’t know where to go with this, I just know that I really love science,” recalls Freiermuth. It was Paulson who recommended that Freiermuth take an education course, and she was hooked.

“[Danielle] chose not only to go into education but to obtain licenses in elementary education, middle school science, and high school life science,” says Paulson. “This broad base of preparation really caught the eyes of the people at Disney. She has a heart for informal education and assisting young people in seeing the science behind phenomena in the real world.”

In her spare time, Freiermuth is creating a physics curriculum on the science behind trapeze stunts and recently took a side job as a STEM educator with iFly Indoor Skydiving. She continues to look for ways to inspire others about God’s creation, and is excited about what God has in store for her next.

Find out more about Bethel’s life science education program

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