Celebrating National Pet Day and their Contribution to STEM Education

Today is National Pet Day, although anyone who owns a pet knows these little companions are celebrated every day. There are many benefits to owning a pet – they make us laugh, increase fitness, lower stress, and much more. But did you also know they play a role in the STEM education that happens here at TERC? Meet 10 TERC staff members' pets and learn how they have inspired them to accomplish their important work.

Sparking an Interest in Robotics

Debra Bernstein, Senior Researcher
Giannis, Cat

Giannis1  Giannis2

Giannis the Cat

This is my cat Giannis helping me prepare for a teacher PD session this past fall. Our Robots in Science project moved online for COVID, so we mailed robotics kits to teachers and then met with them on Zoom to explore the kit and different activities. When this picture was taken I was getting ready to try out a sensor and data logging activity that our partner from Tufts developed, in advance of a PD session. The cat thought this was a great activity.

My kids liked this one too - they saw the cat on my desk and came in to see what was happening. They wound up helping me build and program the robot. In truth, they were a little more helpful than the cat. :-)

Sharing a Passion for Early Algebra

Maria Blanton, Ph.D., Senior Scientist
Flossie, Rescue Dog


Flossie2  Flossie

There are almost no early algebra children’s books, so I wrote a children’s “book” using pictures of Flossie. The book, titled “Ms. Flossie’s Day Dreams,” has lots of funny photos of Flossie and tells the story of how Flossie spent the day thinking about the meaning of the equal sign. I’ve read this in different 1st grade classrooms and have had a lot of fun with it.

Flossie, a rescue dog, was blind from birth so she was not very active. For 9 years, she slept beside me while I worked. Her calmness was always therapeutic to me! Flossie, who we lost the last day of 2020, was named after my great aunt, a kind, gentle soul, just like our dog.

Spreading Happiness

Benjamin Gosbee, Staff Accountant
Eleanor Mewsevelt, 12 year old Cat


We adopted Eleanor from the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk, Maine when she was 5 years old. She loves giving me some pointers while I'm presumably typing up an email about timesheets or year-end expenses. Over the last six months or so, she's started barging in on a lot of my meetings and it definitely lightens the mood.

Inspiring Curiosity

Kelly Paulson, Project Manager
Sox, Cat



Whatever door opens, whatever box arrives, whatever blanket is piled up just so, whatever surface is flat or window is open, Sox is there to check it out. TERC inspires this same curiosity, but in less furry learners, and I love being here to support that.

The photo above shows Sox’s curiosity in action. Sometimes that means checking out the most dangerous of surfaces. The entire family stops moving and talks in whispers if someone sees Sox on the 2nd floor railing, that drops down to the first floor. We don't want to startle her. But she's got years of cat instinct, cat claws, and an apparent love of danger.

Prompting Fresh Air

Jodi Asbell-Clarke, Senior Leader, Research Scientist, Director of EdGE
Luna, Dog


We start every workday with a walk in the woods. She must check that every squirrel is in their place before we can be truly productive for the day. And then she goes and sits under Mom's desk and waits for the next walk.

Angela Murphy Gardiner, Research and Design Specialist/Project LEAP
Duke, 7 month old Yellow Lab


On a typical workday, Duke can be found curled up in our office. He serves as my constant reminder to take a break from the screen. If I've been working too long, Duke jumps up on my lap and places his head on my keyboard, letting me know that we both could use some fresh air and sunshine.

Liz Lagattolla, HR Generalist
Fleet and Hector, Horses


During this pandemic, my happy place is in my barn with my horses, Fleet and Hector. At times, working from home can make me feel exhausted from being in front of my computer all day. But working remotely has given me the opportunity to spend more time with my horses. I love to ride because it takes me outside to enjoy nature and I feel refreshed and productive when I return to my home office to work.

Tara Robillard, Senior Researcher
Nola, 5 year old fawn Doberman


We rescued Nola from the Distinguished Dobermans Rescue in New Jersey when she was a year old. She is such a love and always reminds me when it's time to take a break from the computer and let her outside to play!

Increasing Concentration Skills

Renee Pawlowski, Project Assistant, EdGE
Walter, Ringneck Dove


Walter encourages my continued employment so I can maintain an adequate stock of treats for him. He also helps me increase my ability to focus through distractions by cooing loudly and unceasingly. Walter came from the MSPCA at Nevins Farm in Methuen, MA. His favorite activities include eating millet, snuggling with flannel blankets, and flying to areas of the house from which he is forbidden.

Andee Rubin, Senior Scientist
Izzie, 2 year old Abyssinian Cat



Izzie is short for "Isolde." My wife Liz has a male cat from the same breeder whose name is Tristan - so Isolde was the obvious choice for my female cat. She is, however, NOT an Isolde, which conjures up a large, resonant, solid personality. She is petite, high-pitched and mischievous, so "Izzie" seemed to fit her better. She never helps me work - rather, she distracts me by attacking the cursor on the screen, whining when I don't pay attention to her, and trying to stick her nose under my computer (because it's warm, perhaps?)

Celebrating National Pet Day and their Contribution to STEM Education
Content Areas:



Listen to the post

Sign up for updates!

Subscribe to our blog