Sunday, December 27, 2009

Planting seeds of science interests in kids of all ages

Let’s say you’re the parent/mentor/teacher/tutor/friend of a kid super-excited about some aspect of science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). You want to nurture that interest and keep that child engaged, especially during the dull times of school breaks, after-school and perhaps even for school-related projects. Whether you’re an educator or not, sometimes an adult needs reinforcements to help a child or teen find his/her own interest path.

Fostering science, math, and engineering interests in young people is the goal of several organizations, including many of our nation’s publicly funded agencies like NASA and NSF. Informal science education programs and institutions run the range. Some supplement traditional K-12 education lessons. Some provide opportunities for families to spend time together, learning, exploring, and having fun. And still there are some that specifically target under-served audiences to introduce them to pioneers and exciting career opportunities.

STEM Outreach Programs that rock!

2009 was definitely the year science initiatives! It was hailed as
* The Year of Science – with each month focusing on a different science topic;
* The Year of the Gorilla – to raise awareness of the threat of extinction to this beautiful primate;
* The Year of Darwin – to celebrate the 200th year of Charles Darwin’s birth and 150th anniversary of the publication of his book; and
* The Year of Astronomy – to celebrate one of the oldest fields of science

To help spread the word of these science initiatives, Science Cafes really took off, especially here in the United States. Often hosted at fun meeting places like restaurants where pizza and beverages are served, people can meet local scientists and learn about interesting topics. Since local communities organize these events, the topics might be related to science initiatives or any other hot topic in the news like sports, herbal medicine, love or health.

But my absolute favorite science outreach efforts are the hands-on organically-grown science and nature outreach programs in individual communities. Here in St. Louis, Missouri, I’ve been involved in a few. My most recent experience was this past summer in the Forest Park Summer Youth Program with Boys & Girls Club kids.

Ocean Discovery Institute of San Diego, California, (formerly Aquatic Adventures) is an awesome program! Diverse young people from this very urban community are engaged in science exploration marine research, and environmental conservation education. This happens to be one of my dream jobs.

Plus, the 2010 San Diego Science Festival sounds like it will be the most anticipated science showcase of greater San Diego. Offering a wide variety of programs and events inspire all ages, “with a special focus on building a pipeline of future scientists and STEM thought-leaders” – festivities include supplemental K-12 Programs, Scientist Speakers series at local schools, a science Exposition, and Scientists in Residence Program. College student scientists represented from disciplines such as Biomedicine, Pharmacology, Engineering, Green Technology, Oceanography, and Astrophysics will work in partnership with San Diego county schools for 6 weeks and create joint project that will be showcased in the 2010 Festival.

Science Chicago hosted the world’s largest science celebration. Being the home of several private businesses like Alberto Culver and institutions like the Shedd Aquarium, all of Chicago had a chance to get a closer look into how science impacts our lives and our health.

I recently discovered ME4EMultidisciplinary Education for the Environment – also out of the Chicago, Illinois. This organization provides outdoor hands-on activities for schools, scouts, and public groups to learn more about ecology and local wildlife. They seem to have a full calendar of events such as bird counts, wildlife watching, making cast of animal tracks, wetlands and woodlands lesson plans, and urban gardening programs.

The Harris Foundation Summer Science Camp is a free, academic program offered in over 20 different cities in the United Sates. Middle school students participate in a variety of recreational, social, and STEM educational activities at local college campuses. Founded by Dr. Bernard Harris, it is designed to support historically underserved and underrepresented students with limited opportunities.
Finally, no matter where you live, here is a program for any student in 3rd- 6th grade. Pulse of the Planet Kid’s Science Challenge is a nationwide competition for kids to submit experiments and problems for REAL scientists and engineers to solve. The website is also a fun place to play science games, watch videos, and enter to win awesome prizes and trips! Plus, the site also offers educator resources for teachers and parents, such as pod casts and downloadable curricula.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Wish List

Happy Holidays,

Today is Winter Soltice, the shortest day of the year. Plus, Christmas is coming. I would normally get all excited heading home to see my family and seeing friends to celebrate New Year's Eve, but I've been pre-occupied. I am really cranking out the dissertation. That's why I've been a little quiet. My goal is the finish the whole thing by this Thursday, December 24th. Chapters one and two are done. These two chapters are the meatier of the manuscripts. Chapters three and four are lighter because I could not reject any of my hypotheses. That's not so bad, it happens sometimes. It just makes the discussion of the results short. There's not much to say, if not much happened. I need to write the Discussion for chapter 3. Chapter 4 is half done, just a little jumbled now. But I feel confident I can meet my deadline.

So my first Christmas wish is to be highly productive and proficient. I want to complete my manuscripts with no major over-hauls requested by my advisor or committee.

Everything else is just sweet bonus, but these T-shirts caught my eye.

AAAS was offering a free T-shirt with a year's subscription to Science Magazine. This one is about completing the dissertation. This is SO me right now. I have a subscription and I think it's good until next year (but now that I think about it, I'm not sure when it expires). So a gift subscription would be sweet, too.

This is another free T-shirt offered by AAAS with a subscription to Science Magazine. This one is about explaining your research at a party. I've actually done everything diagramed in the T-shirt except puppet show. Sweet idea! I think hand puppets of voles would actually make a pretty good props for my general public presentaions. I don't know if both shirts are beign offered, but I like both equally.

This next selection is just too sweet. Since I rock a big fro, I thought I this shirt might be perfect for me to wear - along with my picked out globe of hair at Science Online 2010. I came across it on Uncle Funky's Daughter Natural hair Salon & Boutique by way of Fly Girl Blog. By the way, their curly hair products looke divine, so while I'm wishing, I might as well go big. I'd love some Curly Magic - Curl Stimulator, as well as moisturizing cleanser and conditioning styling creme.

Finally, I'm always willing to accept the generic gift of kindness. If you feel so inclined, then please donate to your heart's content and wallet's capacity.

Happy Winter Soltice!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Stimulate your Brain: STEM Scholarships & Internships

Middle school and High School are the preparation grounds for your future. But what happens after you receive your diploma? Graduating from high school signals the end of your childhood and the beginning of your adult life. This means the start of your journey to independence, bills and responsibilities. Most adults don’t expect you to leave home and be self-sufficient immediately; but you do need to be ready to accept the challenge. It’s never too early to prepare for post-graduation (or too late).

A post-high school education is your best plan for securing a stable future for yourself (Vo-Tech, Community college or university). For those of you interested in a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM), a college education will be order. However, funding a college education is no simple matter. Getting accepted in the school of your dreams is not the end of the story. Financing your education takes planning – the sooner the better. When parents ask me about how to fund their children’s college education I tell them to start right now, even as early as middle school. The Federal Financial Aid form (FAFSA) is a perfect place to t start, but with the cost of education rising faster than inflation and the cost of living, Pell Grants and Students Loans will not be enough. Apply for competitive scholarships throughout middle and high school. If you’re in college, apply for additional scholarships as well as internship and mentoring programs.

Here are some announcements:

1. The Society of Wetland Scientists Diversity Program Undergraduate Mentoring Awards
This professional science society offers full travel awards to undergraduate students to attend its annual meeting. The 2010 meeting will be held June 27 – July 2, 2010 meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Thanks to generous funding by the NSF, undergraduate students from underrepresented groups can receive wetland sciences career mentoring for at the annual meeting. Students must complete an application. In order to maximize the opportunity for interested students to apply, the deadline has been extended to January 30. Visit the website for details and the application.

Students from the 2009 SWS Conference. (This could be you!)

2. The 2010 Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship
Dr. Anita Borg (1949-2003) devoted her life to revolutionizing the way we think about technology and dismantling the barriers that keep women and minorities from entering the computing and technology fields.
Google is proud to announce the 2010 Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, awarding a group of female students each a scholarship for the 2010-2011academic year. All finalists and scholarship recipients will also be invited to attend a 3-day Scholars' Retreat at the Googleplex in 2010. The Google Anita Borg Scholarship program is available to undergraduate or graduate female students studying computer science (or closely related field) at a university in Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand and the United States. The candidate must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale or 4.5 on a 5.0 scale or equivalent. Deadline to apply is February 1, 2010. For complete details for this and more scholarships for diverse students, please visit Google Scholarships
h/t Blacks Gone Geek

Additional Scholarships and Fellowships in various disciplines can be found at these sites.
a. The Multicultural Advantage - lists of scholarships and fellowships with upcoming deadlines.
b. Planning and Preparing for College – updates of Scholarships, Internships, and the college application process.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Family visit to the Racine Zoo

Over Thanksgiving break I took my niece and younger cousin to the Racine Zoo. Zoos (and Botanical Gardens, too) are perfect places to introduce young people to ecology - animals, plants and how they interact and depend on each other to make the world go around. Little does she know, I'm preparing her for a lifetime of outdoor and science adventures. I've taken her to another zoo, so she was anticipating this visit. Like all children, she was excited to see the big animals and hear the big cats roar. I was also excited to take my younger cousin who definitely is a field biologist. The trip to the zoo was a mini-class about zoology. He was asked me so many questions about animals, it seemed as if he was hitting me with every curiosity he ever had and I was the first person he was able to an answer from.

I delayed getting on the road to return home. My brother teased about how I do anything for the "kids interested in school and stuff". He's right. I am a sucker for the babies. I was letting him know that even in big cities (he lives in Chicago) that wild animals like deer, raptors, rabbits, and coyotes live in suburban and urban areas. Before I departed, he had my dad's binoculars and out in the backyard siting wildlife in the field behind the house.

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