Science Bloggers for Students DonorsChoose Challenge

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Connecting Minds to Science

The United States is ranked 35th in Math and 29th in Science. Other nations such as China, Finland, Australia, and Japan outrank us. Think about it, what are the things we love in this society? Our technologies - tech gadgets, televisions, high performing cars, digital communication, digital music, green technologies, convenience foods, all the conveniences of life. Have you ever stop to think about the minds that go into making these technologies? These industries are beyond lucrative. Those who work in those industries, whether on the creative side, innovation and improvement side, manufacturing and distribution side, or marketing and selling side - individuals who work in these industries earn good livings. Our society is moving ever-more rapidly to innovation. So if you wanted to be on board this very fast moving train, you would have to be ready for it.
You can‘t simply wake up and decide today you will invent or enhance such a technology. Even if a great company moved into your neighborhood and offer jobs with amazing salaries, the question you must ask yourself, would I (or my friends, family, etc) be eligible to apply? Do I or we have the requisite or foundation skills to apply for that job.
The Connect a Million Minds campaign held a Math, Science & the Future of Our Nation Global Town Hall meeting earlier today. Here is a link to a video as why this is a very important matter.


When opportunity meets preparation

Many of us want opportunities and chance for grand lives. The conversation within families and communities must now include a frank dialogue about the role preparation, if it hasn’t already. As Astronaut Sally Ride shared before the Global Town Hall, she happened to see an ad in the university newspaper calling for applications to the NASA space program. Being an astronaut was a fantasy of hers, but as she read the list of requirements to apply, she realized that she had taken all of the required math and science courses and decided to give it a try. The rest is history.

How many opportunities have some of us (or our children) closed the door on, simply because of our disinterest in science and math? How many of us are blind to the many opportunities available in science, engineering, and technology?
My fear, is that the answer is too many, especially for individuals from communities of color who are still under-achieving in math and science class and under-represented in math and science classes and work industries.

Furthermore, how does the image of scientists and engineers and perception of science, technology, engineering, and math as ’uncool’ play into that? No doubt, a lot. In other nations, such as China, the smart kids are the ones who are admired and respected by peers. In Australia, youngsters compete to make good grades and take challenging courses in chemistry and physics. These young people celebrate the innovative genius of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Quite the opposite of US attitudes that avoid hard classes and turn in assignments late or our great pre-occupation to celebrate sports over academics. These attitudes result in an apathy for the subject matter, which leads to our poor standing in these subjects. That in turn leads to our nation’s declining ability to work in these industries.
But there is a cool factor to STEM. The popularity of Mythbusters, Adam Savage & Jamie Hyneman, attest to that. So does the participation of Video Game designer Kudo Tsunado, in the town hall. He explained how much math, such as algebra, calculus, and physics are apart of game design and development. Those games are math and science in action. When a designer has a god understanding of math, he/she designs better games.  As the dialogue considered ways to change the attitudes of young people about science it really became apparent to me is that Profile matters. There is something to be said of raising the profile of individuals who are innovative. In this case, the media markets and starlets in entertainment could be king makers. With one simple tweet or mention or sincere gesture of acceptance, something becomes cool. Instantaneously.

And what can only be described as kismet, the December 2010 issue of GQ magazine features a spread of the Rock Stars of Science. By lending some if star power, the music industries brightest is sharing the limelight with some amazing scientists. In fact, this strategy is not new. It simply uses very smart social marketing strategies to create a cultural shift of attitudes about anything. And as I was reading another timely piece of online writing, Christopher A. Boudy’s post about "Where Are the Black Nerds At?" I thought of how dope it would be do a similar spread in an African-American target magazine, such as an Ebony, Source, or VIBE. Couldn’t you see a spread with Kanye West, Little Wayne, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, and Drake standing in the lab or field with some of the brightest up-and-coming-scientists, engineers, and doctors. That would be so hype.



FYI: I recognize that I came with one amazing idea. I expect to be fully credited and compensated if such a magazine (print or online) decides to go full steam ahead with that. Thanks and love ya! DNLee

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: My Power Color - Autumn Orange

The warm hues of oranges with reds and yellows warm my soul.  These colors also completement the undertones of my skin.  I'm always rocking these colors - all year long.  This time of year, I feel certain Mother Nature is dressing up just for me.

Aaah!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Urban Wildlife Watch: Chinese Chestnut Tree

Looking back on my life and surveying my memories from my present vantage point - as an adult and a biologist with several years of school under my belt - I sometimes realize that I knew I would be a biologist. 

As I stroll along walkways or drive down the street, I sometimes find myself completely entranced by the subtle plots of nature happening before me.  These surreal pauses seem to hit me especially hard when I encounter a tree or flower that for some reason is bookmarked in my mind, but I don't know it until that very moment.

I was literally walking down the street, headed to my car and saw this.

 It is the spiky fruit pod of the Chestnut tree, the Sweet or Chinese Chestnut it is sometimes called.
We had a rather large Sweet Chestnut tree in my front yard back home in Memphis.  These spike pods were the bane of my younger siblings and wandering animals.
Bumping into this young tree was like running into an old friend while on vacation.  You never expected to see them but you stop and visit a while and you feel good for having taken the time to catch up.
I first learned about Chestnut trees at Natural Resources Career Camp.  The American Chestnut is especially rare because it is susceptible to a tree disease, known as blight.  Even if you are lucky enough to see/grow one, it's not likely to grow very long or tall.  Because no one in my family knew what kind of tree this was, I took some of the fallen nuts to the Forestry professor at my university (while I was studying for my Master's).  He seemed surprised to see the nut and kept asking me where I found it.  He seemed to have a hard time believing me when I told him from my yard, from a large tree.  Obviously, foreign Chestnut trees are special as well.

Have you come across a chestnut tree?  If so which kind?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Snakes up close

I've got to make a confession.  I really don't give reptile (or amphibians) their just due on Urban Science Adventures! ©. I'm a mammalogist, true and through. But I'm also an opportunitist, which is why I feature so many plants, flowers, and trees in my post.  They never go anywhere.

But I was able to get a really great photo of a garter snake this summer at camp.
On my list of 100+ Things to do outside – a growing list of suggestions for family-friendly outdoor activities, this is activity #47. See a wild snake.






This little fellow was making his way through the cracks of this stone that border the walking/biking trail at Forest Park (St. Louis).  He poked his head out for a while, several of the kids saw him and quietly watched.  I came over and didn't see him at first, and then I did.  I took out my little camera and snapped as quickly as it would allow and was very proud of my two images.

Garter snakes are common urban snakes. Most people have encountered one in the back yard or park.  If you have tall grass, then you've created a cozy place for them.  They can live in/near woody areas with water. So if your neighborhood has some wooded lots and/or overgrown fields and subject to soggy boggy ground in the spring and summer, then you live in perfect garter snake habitat.  They feed on the smaller critter like mice, insects, worms, and small toads and frogs.  I know of many people who handle them (they aren't venomous), because they don't tend to bite.  But I recommend against it anyway.  A bite can still cause irritation and call for a tetanus shot. No fun!.

This time of year, garter snakes are preparing for winter.  They hibernate in very large groups or aggregations of sometimes a hundred or more snakes.  Both males and females overwinter in the hibernaculum and research suggests that individuals return to the sames hibernaculum year after year.  They remain there for 4 months and emerge in the spring ready to mate. 

Most garter snakes are our of sight, but depending on where you are in the country, and if you get a warm snap, you might spot a snake or two.  If so, let me know.

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