In the Weeds with Claes Thelemarck

UNH Extension staff are in the field every day, working with Granite State residents to make life better in New Hampshire. Because they’re so often on the go, getting to know our specialists and educators can be challenging. That’s why we’ve created In the Weeds, an ongoing series of interviews with Extension staff. Get to know the people behind our programs, discover new opportunities and pick up a few music recommendations along the way.

Name: Claes Thelemarck

Title: Extension Field Specialist, Science Literacy

Start Date at Extension: January 2009

Why did you choose your field of work?

I got into youth science education when I realized, way back in college, that I did not really want to do scientific research and that I really enjoyed working with people. I started working in environmental education jobs and landed a great gig with the Appalachian Mountain Club, bringing youth hiking to the huts and developing and teaching environmental education curriculum. Working in environmental education evolved into classroom teaching in middle and high school science, which ultimately led me to UNH Cooperative Extension and 4-H. Now I get to spend my time finding and dreaming up ways to engage youth in hands on science.

If you were told that you could only have one tool to do your job at Extension, what would it be?

We already have all the tools we need to learn. We just need to find the right environment to explore. It might be a small stream in the woods, or a pile of wooden blocks, or perhaps strings of cut up Christmas lights and some batteries. When we find any phenomenon and have the freedom and time to explore it, our own imagination kicks in and we can observe it, form questions and design investigations or design and build things based on what we find.

I was a big “Calvin and Hobbes” fan back in the day and one of my favorite cartoons was a strip where Calvin finds a trickle of water flowing across the ground and exclaims to Hobbes, “Well, it looks like our afternoon is booked.” The right phenomenon at the right time can engage anyone for hours, or even a lifetime.

Describe a memorable experience you have had in your career as an educator.

My favorite learning moments are always the unplanned ones that happen spontaneously. I remember a time hiking up Tuckerman's Ravine on a blue-sky day with a group of kids when, suddenly, a huge cloud came swooping down over the head wall and engulfed us. The temperature dropped noticeably about 15 degrees in a matter of seconds. I could never have created an experience to illustrate how air masses move and form clouds, but that day Mother Nature gave us all a memorable experience.

If you had to make a playlist to accompany your program, what five songs would you add first?

  • “A Long and Happy Life” by Delta Rae
  • “The Cave” by Mumford and Sons
  • “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd
  • “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

If there was one thing you would want everyone to know about your field of expertise, what would it be?

We all really want to learn, and if we are surrounded by stimulating experiences, people and places, we are like sponges soaking up all we can.

How can people get in touch with you or learn more about your programming?

Contact me at our Carroll County office at 603-447-3834 or email claes.thelemarck@unh.edu.

Do you have any events coming up that you are excited about?

I'm super excited for the new 4-H Makers Expo we are planning for April 13. It is a place for youth to celebrate anything and everything that they make. Also, soon we will be introducing the 4-H STEaMpunk Challenge. It’s a challenge to design and build a crazy contraption to do a simple task in the most complicated way, with as many different steps as possible.

What Extension program, outside of your program area, would we most likely find you at in your free time?

I really like walking in the woods and before I began working at Extension, I was a NH Coverts Project volunteer. So I suspect you might find me with some of our Nature Groupies clearing trails, pulling invasive plants or working for wildlife somewhere.

Anna Boudreau Supports Extension

I Support Extension

Anna Boudreau
State Advisory Council Chair, Natural Resources Steward and NH Coverts Cooperator