Monday, December 20, 2010

12 Months of Urban Science Adventures! © A Blogging Meme Story

All the cool kids other science bloggers were doing it, so I joined in.  Here is how it works:
Post the link and first sentence from the first blog entry for each month of the past year.
So here goes:

Happy New Year! I know I have been posting less than regularly, but I assure that it is a good sign of my progress on my dissertation
The SnowPocalypse isn't all bad.
I'm going to do something a little extra today - present a research paper to you.
Wow! It's April already.
I graduate next week.
Oh, I love summer!
I love junk food. 
It's Election day in many parts of the United States.
On Wednesday, September 8, 2010, THE Dr. Mae Jemison spoke a room of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators and advocates at the state of Missouri STEM Summit presented by the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education.
We met in the Ladies Room near the main Auditorium at Bucknell University.
November: Snakes up close
I've got to make a confession.
The golden hues of autumn leaves make me smile.

It reads like a Mad Libs game. A little funny and choppy. 

But I am very happy about this year.  It's been the best, most blessed year of my life. 
Smooches to you all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Blogging my way to the North Pole.

Send me far, far away...only for a little while.  I'm trying it again*, entering a Quark Expedition Contest to Blog my Way to the North Pole, this time.  No thanks to climate change, the polar regions of our world are shrinking.  The Arctic regions, also known as the North Pole, are the most endangered of the two.
I would love the chance to be your daily blogging correspondent to show and tell you about this majestic ecosystem.

My appeal essay is titled: Following in Matthew Henson's footsteps.  If I win, then that's exactly what I will be doing, following in the footsteps of one of the world's greatest explorers, Matthew Henson.  He is known as the first African-American to reach the North Pole, along with 12 others including Robert Peary.

Mr. Henson. If I had Photoshop skills, I'd make a duplicate image next to him with my round face.  But can't you just see me bundled up like this.  Too cool! Literally and figuratively.
*Last year, I entered the Quark Expedition Contest to Blog my way to the South Pole. Thanks to great online supporters like Cynthia from Shimmy in My Spirit, Martin Lindsey from MartyBLOGs, the Blogging While Brown community, and my tweeps from Twitter. I had an amazing showing: 8th place out of 800 entries!

With your support, I could do equally as well again, if not better. Click here to vote.

Cynthia from Shimmy in My Spirit made this card for my Antarctic campaign. Cute, ain't it?
 I'll give Quark some props for revising the voting regime.  It's alot better than before.  You simply register with a valid email and click on the button to vote for me, and you can leave comments, now.  I really like that part. You can also vote for 4 additional people. The top 5 finalist are considered by a panel of judges and the winner they select will go on one amazing cruise.  I think this method is alot better and more fair than before. 

The voting continues until February 15, 2011 12 noon EST. The cruise expedition will take place June 23 - July 7, 2011 and includes visiting Helsinki, Finland and Murmansk, Russia before boarding a huge nuclear powered icebreaker cruise ship. Awesomeness!

So, please help me get there.  Vote for me and help me spread the news.  I appreciate it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Simply Red


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Educational Gift Giving Ideas for the Holidays

Happy Holidays!

It’s that time of year for good cheer, celebrating, and holiday parties. I especially love attending networking holiday parties. And in the spirit of the holidays, many of these parties have charitable notions. Some ask for food donations, or to adopt-an-angel/family/child/senior. I love these themes.

However, my time serving and working in social service really forced me to confront the objectives of these gift-giving soirees. I mean, what does it mean to give a family requesting assistance with their utility bills a brand new game system or iPod? Something about that is not only ironic but completely opposite of the goal of helping families get on their feet. Moreover, I believe the gifts one gives should be meaningful to the giver, too.

When I was younger, and my mother made holiday gift donations, she always provided books. She didn’t want to bother shopping for clothes that might not fit or be appreciated and she hated fighting crowds in the toy aisle. Plus, she’s a big proponent of education so books are the best gift, fits everyone, lasts forever and keep on giving. So when I am asked to bring a toy for a child, I find myself browsing through the book shelves instead of the toy aisles. Moreover, as a scientist interested in sparking the excitement and wonder of nature in youth and adults of all ages, I tend to favor books about science, ecology, and achievement. But I’m biased. I liked books as a kid. I loved reading. I know there are children (and adults) who don’t like to read and might find such a gift insulting. So, I’ve stretched my imagination some, however, I still believe in educational gifts – gifts that inspire creativity and imagination, gifts that foster critical thinking and team work, and gifts that are gender-neutral.

So here’s my list of suggested educational, science/engineering, youth and adult friendly, gender neutral gift ideas.

1. Jigsaw puzzles (but depending on the age, not too many pieces, that could be discouraging). I chose one with North American Animals. I thought that perfectly reflected my values related to environmental education.

2. Rubik’s cube

3. Board games: old-fashioned strategy games like Scrabble, Othello, Connect 4, Memory (for the tots)

4. LEGOs and other building and engineering-inspring games. Did you know that LEGO sponsors all kinds of Educational Competitions?  Sometimes childplay can turn into something awesome.  Legos are the gateway to robotics, engineering, computer science, and technological sciences.

5. Books are still a great idea. Such as the ones I’ve read and reviewed about animals, nature, and environmental science. Also check out the AAAS Science Books & Film Gift Guide 2010 list of science books for all ages. Lots of great titles.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Golden Life

The golden hues of autumn leaves make me smile.

Living my life like it's golden.

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.


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.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Urban Nature Scapes (France)

Tree-lined avenues, well-manicured lawns, and beds of cultivated flowers are the parts of nature many urbanite come to know and love.  This is our green space, our comfortable wild oasis.  And oasis is really the best way to describe it - a little hint of happiness from the surrounding sea of other. 

Here are some nearly forgot-I-had-those-uploaded- pictures from my visit to France last year.

Sycamore trees along the Paris Avenue.

Cultivated and very well-landscaped lawns of Rennes.

More pretty scenes in Rennes. (This park reminded me so much of Tower Grove Park in St. Louis, the part by the Palm House.)

More cultivated and manicured lawns of Rennes

Sunday, October 17, 2010

To Catch a Frog or Toad

I have a list of 100+ Things to do outside – a growing list of suggestions for family-friendly outdoor activities.

#77. Catch a Frog. I’m actually pretty good at this. I think it’s because of my years of handling voles. Voles are quick little field mice. I handled them throughout graduate school. I had to learn to handle them in a way that was firm – because they will squirm and wiggle and try to get away, but at the same time gentle – because I wanted them alive. After accidently killing a vole trying to handle it, I learned quickly how to catch, pick up, handle and move the little critters – both with gloves and without. I later found on a class field trip to Guyana, that this skill was transferrable to other small, fast critters.

So, I caught my very first frog. It was in the evening in the mountains near Kaiteur Falls. There are these teeny tiny frogs, about the size of a quarter, maybe smaller that have skin so thin you can see the organs in their bellies. Armed only with a head lamp and listening closely, I reached out onto the tall bushy grass and just grabbed at the distinctive metal like croak…and I caught one. In my hand, tiny and wet and fabulous was this little guy with a big voice, singing into the night – along with all of his brothers in search of a willing mate.

I was exhilarated. Since then, I’ve been a frog and toad catching queen. Grabbing and holding and posing away. Her e are some shots from this summer, the urban summer day camp with Boys & Girls Club kiddies.

 Gray tree frog
 Fowler's toad
 The little girls at the camp were initially resistant to touching frogs.  But after they saw me handle one, they were more curcious than afraid and couldn't help themselves.
The Best was when a little girl was simultaneously anxious but competitive, trying and trying to catch a frog squeeling the whole time. Some were so proud of overcoming their anxiety we had to coax them to leave the frogs and toads behind.

 Gray tree frog
Fowler's Toad

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Wise Latina Scientist

We met in the Ladies Room near the main Auditorium at Bucknell University. I was attending my very first professional science conference (Animal Behavior Society) and was trying to shake off my nerves before giving my first talk. I knew absolutely no one there and though I was well-prepared to share the results of my thesis, I was still a mess. She noticed my distress right away and offered to advance my slides for me. What a relief. She introduced herself and the other ladies in the restroom to me and I felt better immediately.

I delivered my talk and fielded some great questions. It was during the Q&A of my talk that I became certain that I would definitely go on to pursue my Ph.D. in Animal Behavior. But little did I know (at the time) that the nice woman who calmed my fears and progressed my slides would be the one to direct me on that path. Zuleyma Tang-Martinez, is how she introduced herself me - and she too worked with voles. That name didn’t ring a bell, but when she informed me that she recently changed her name from Halpin, then it became all too clear to me that I was standing before one the most-referenced researchers in rodent behavior. Her research with mice, gerbils, and voles included questions relating to social behavior, population biology, and most notably of chemical communication. I was all too familiar with her work on habituation-dishabituation responses.  I was studying chemical communication - everyone in my lab was. The Halpin Method* - which she developed while in graduate school, was one of two protocols (the other is the Johnston Method) researchers used to measure differences in behavioral responses of animal subjects to odors and chemical signals from other animals. Meeting her was a big deal, indeed.

What’s more she had been a major champion for diversity within the society and the discipline. She served as the Society’s President from 1993-1994. During her tenure, she created the (Ethnic) Diversity Fund. The fund, which accepts voluntary contributions from members, helps defray the cost of the meeting registration for students from under-represented groups to attend the international conference. I was fortunate to have received the scholarship to attend that very meeting. She also founded the Latin American Affairs Committee and co-coordinated Turner Undergraduate Diversity Program of the Society.

She has received numerous awards for service related to teaching, outreach and inclusion. In 2007, she received the Animal Behavior Society Extemporary Service Career Award. In recognition of her scholarship and service, she achieved the rank of Full Professor of Biology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1994. More recently she received Quest Award for Outstanding Research Contributions in animal behavior and behavioral ecology from the Animal Behavior Society.  Her response to receiving the award: “It is my hope that, as the first Latina-American to receive this honor, I can serve as a role model, encouraging the next generation of scientists of color to pursue careers in animal behavior.”

I can certainly say that she has been for me.

* The Halpin Method: Halpin, Z. T. 1974. Individual differences in the biological odors of the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus). Behavioral Biology 11:253–259.

This post is part of the Latino Heritage Month Edition of Diversity in Science Carnival - Celebrating the people of science, technology, engineering and mathematics!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Call for Submissions for Diversity in Science Carnival - Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic/Latino American Heritage Month.  Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 - October 15, annually.  What better way to celebrate this diversity awareness month than with blog articles about the people who make a difference in the world?   In Diversity of Science Carnival style, bloggers are invited to celebrate the people who make contributions to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).  Write and submit your posts about a mentor, friend, historical figure, teacher, or student who makes contributions in STEM to society.

Already, there is buzz among some in the science blogging community to write post about important science and education mentors.  So what will you share?  No matter your blogging niche, you can contribute to the carnival.

Submission deadline: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Carnival posted: Friday, October 15, 2010
Published at SouthernPlayalisticEvolutionMusic.

Submit your post via this link (or if it's acting up, leave a link in the comments field below).

Upcoming Carnivals include:
November: Native American Heritage Month
Submission deadline: Saturday, November 22, 2010
Carnival posted: Monday, November 29, 2010
Host needed.

Want to participate or host an upcoming carnival? Email me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Water Quality

This Saturday, September 25, 2010, many communities around the world will celebrate World Water Monitoring Day.  Citizens - young and old, will come together to test the quality of the water they live near and depend on for sustenance.  The quality and cleanliness of our local waters matter because we need water to survive: drinking, cooking, bathing, for our animals (both pets and livestock), for our food (the vegetables that eventually make it on our dinner plates.  Water is so vitally important for our personal healt and the health of our planet.

I'll be at Spring Valley Park in Kansas City, Mo leading water quality monitoring activities with the families that come to the Kids Fishing Derby for Urban Outdoor Day presented by Urban American Outdoors and Kansas City Missouri Parks & Rec.  I hope people see the obvious connection between the activity - fishing - and the importance of maintaining healthy waters for wildlife and future outdoor recreational activities.  I also hope they make the next obvious connecton to their own daily habits and how that might relate to water quality.

Water Quality can be monitored in two different ways: abiotic monitoring and biotic monitoring.

Abiotic monitoring involves measuring the important physical parts of the water environment such as
  • the pH of the water: how acid or basic it is
  • the amount of dissovled oxygen in the water
  • turbidity: how clear or cloudy the water is
  • temperature: how warm or cool the water is
Each of these physical parts are indicators the health of the water.  Biotic monitoring quantifies the type of living organisms in a water way and then deduces the health of the water because we know that certain organisms can only survive within a certain range of each of those measures.

Macroinvertebrates are very good indicators as to the health of a stream, lake, or pond
The presence of many different species and other predatory invertebrates is a good sign that the water habitat can support many food chain levels.

Healthy fish species are also a good sign. Remember, vertebrate species like fish and birds ultimately depend on invertebrate, microbe, and plant species for their survival, too.
Are you celebrating World Water Monitoring Day?  If so, how? Tell me about your adventures.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

And a new Science Blog is born...SouthernPlayalisticEvolutionMusic

I was always in love with music. I learned how to change radio stations on our old school 8-track record player console by the age of 3. I knew what I liked: piano melodies, bass guitars, drum beats, and catchy hooks, also known as chorus.  And then I discovered hip-hop.  Like a scence from Brown Sugar, I remember when I fell in love with hip-hop.  It was 1985, and I was mesmerized by Whodini, and the rapper Jaleel - "Five Minutes of Funk" is still my jam! Many, many, many years later I got a chance to see them perform and lo and behold I heard the opening 8 beats to the song. Next thing I remember I cleared the stage landing in one step (wearing high heels mind you) and took the mic from Jaleel and rapped his verses to the song.

Yea, I love hip-hop and many might be surprised as how knowledgeable I am in all of the various hip-hop and rap demonimations.  I ham a Hip-Hop Maven....and I'm also a nerdy girl.  Proud to be both.  So that brings me to my newest blog project - SouthernPlayalisticEvolutonMusic.  It's a science blog about evolutionary biology explained via hip-hop music examples.  It's housed at Southern Fried Science Network.

Why a new blog?  It's a completely different topic - Evolutionary Biology; and it's new voice for me.  I'm primarily writing to an adult audience.  I'm not using foul language or anything, but the evolutionary topics of sexual selection and mate choice are thoroughly explored. Plus, I will likely be sampling some songs with colorful language.  I wanted to keep the voice clear and respect the following this blog has aquired.  This is an introductory science blog about urban ecology that reaches diverse and family-friendly audiences.

I am keeping this blog and plan to re-assume my blogging frequency of 2-3 posts per week.  I'll be taking it easy over at the other blog, once per week as I build an audience. 

In the meantime, please follow me on Twitter as I talk about all things science - urban ecology, informal science education, evolution, and STEM diversity @DNLee5.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Summer activity recap - having adventures all summer long.

I have been busy.  As I am sure you all have noticed by my blogging frequency. (And let me say I am very thankful that you all have still been with me through all of this).  2010 is definitely becoming a breakthrough year professionally: defending the dissertation, graduation, working, presenting.

The truth is, the busy-ness I am experiencing in real life is the result of my online science blogging activities.  How paradoxal, huh? If you follow the blog on Facebook, you might have noticed the tick in professional activities. I've been trying to convert the blogging audience into an online community and so far so good.  I've been posted pictures and updates directly to the Facebook Fan page. (And if you're so inclined, please join, too.)

Quick recap of this summer achievements:

1. Submitted a video to the Oprah Winfrey Network contest to have my own televison show.  I didn't place, but I'm still proud that I finallyput my vision to words, pictures, audio and video.  Many thanks to my sister for editing and creating this audition video.  So, if anyon out there knows of a media outlet that would be interested in such a program (produced/hosted by me of course), please feel free to get at me.

2. Blogging While Brown Conference in Washington, DC.  Attending and speaking at this conference has spurred many other social media engagement opportunities.  I met some amazing bloggers (The Cubicle Chick and Glamazini) from St. Louis and we hosted a tweetup - a real life meetup of local area Twitter & facebook users and bloggers.  We plan to have more tweetups in the future. Plus, one of my co-hosts is hosting her own blogging conference: Show Me the Blog on Saturday, October 23rd.

3. Forest Park Summer Youth Program job.  Oh, I had a blast working with the kids this year, and the staff.  I worked as a counselor last year and got a chance to use alot of the lessons learned in Experiential Education - that I also promote here on the blog - in real life.  Plus, I was proud of my professional growth.  I was the program supervisor this year and the staff seemed to enjoy themselves and no kids were I'd say I did alright.

4. St. Louis Magazine.  Earler this summer I was recommended by the St. Louis Academy of Science to answer the "Big Question: If you had $10 million dollars, what idea would you fund to transform St. Louis".  If you're able to secure a copy of the September 2010 edition of the magazine, you'll see I'm one of 45 people who answered the question.  I'm really honored because I share some print space with some local heavy hitters like Economic Developer John Edwards and Beer Hier Adolphus Busch IV.

5. Featured in the Science & Tech Section of the Charlotte Observer.  Each Monday, a new science blogger is interviewed and featured in the newspaper.  Here is the link to my interview in the August 23, 2010 paper:  City dwellers can see science all around town by TD Beeland.

6. I got a job! Perhaps this is the single biggest accomplishment over the summer.   I believe in the Law of Attraction  I asked for an opportunity to do science outreach for pay and it happened.  I'm presently sharing science and consulting on matters related to STEM diversity and outreach for a fabulous St. Louis-based non-profit - SCOPE (Science & Citizens Organized for Purpose & Exploration).

7. Upcoming speaking engagements.  Actually the presenting started in the summer when I was invited to Miami University in Ohio.  I presented part of my dissertation to the Biology Department for their Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.  Also, I'll be presenting at the Urban Outdoor Summit in Kansas City on September 24 & 25th.  It's a great meeting to discuss the recreational and career opportunities in outdoors and nature for diverse audiences.  It is a free meeting which culminates in a Kids Fishing Derby at Spring Valley Park.  Plus, I've been invited to present at The Missouri History Museum as apart of the Perspectives on Science and History Lecture Series for the Exhibit: Home Lands: How Women Made the West.  If you're in St. Louis, Missouri on the evening of Tuesday, October 19, then feel free to check out the lecture on Homestead Earth: An Evening with Women Environmentalists.

See, I told you I've been busy.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Making Science Make Sense with Dr. Mae Jemison

On Wednesday, September 8, 2010, THE Dr. Mae Jemison spoke a room of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators and advocates at the state of Missouri STEM Summit presented by the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education.

As I listened to her keynote talk: "Diversity in STEM: The New American Imperative", I fought hard, very hard, to control myself.  I was not only super excited about seeing her in person, but was so moved by her words.  She discussed shy science literacy matters for everyone, EVERYONE, and why bringing more women and under-represented minorities into STEM career tracks is critical to our nation's success.  As she put it, training ALL of our students in STEM prepares them to take jobs in innovation; or alternatively for those that do not wish to become scientists or engineers, we want them to be ready to understand and use new technologies and make decisions about science and tech policy or personal matters is important.

I really felt like she was reading my mind and sharing those thoughts with the world, especially when she remarked, "What was best about my education in science is that it gave me the ability to think critically and be flexible."  That's the heart of why science literacy matters.  It prepares individuals to make the best decisions possible for themselves and their families.

She then got to the heart of the talk for this audience of formal and informal STEM educators and advocates - How STEM is taught and learned.  I sat down in front directly facing Dr. Jemison, meeting her eye every time she look up.  And her words rang so true to me that the remainder of this post I'm using first person voice because everything she was saying, I have said, and I feel as passionately as she. And if you can imagine, I was bursting inside ready to stand up and testify; but vigorous head nodding was all I allowed myself to do in that professional setting.

Point #1 - Kids love science. They have this innate curiosity to learn about the word, to tinker, to figure things out.  The rote memorization of fact has bored the love of science and engineering out of most kids. "We have got to figure out how to use the prodigious construct for learning and keep them engaged in science past the exploratory/curiosity in science.  Rote memorization is not the way to get to improved STEM access to all students. Hands-on inquiry-based learning is a fancy name for kids doing science."  Science is a VERB, it's what I do.  (That last sentence is me).

Point #2 - STEM cuts across all fields. Reading,writing, arithmetic. Students learn all kinds of subject matter via science and science can be used to reinforce other subject matters.  It is an applied way to utilize these skills.  For examples, students read about experiments, take measurements, and summarize and present results.

Point #3. Everyone should be on board to improve STEM access and literacy.  Industry is very is important but we should run schools like businesses, but because industry gives us the feedback we need to help students prepare for these great careers in STEM.

Point #4 - Just putting a kid in front a computer is NOT science literacy. "Giving a child a chance to grow a potato in a cup is better science education than all of that fancy technology equipment!!" Preach, preach it.

Point #5 - What’s best for all students to do well in science that they have to have Exposure, Experiences, and Expectation – whether they become professional scientists/engineers or not. (And by now I was ready to jump up and shout).  A majority of career opportunities in science and engineering do NOT require a 4 year degree. As adults, we have got to do better job as guidance counselors or as parents or mentors.  We've got to help them know what their options are and make sure they are adequately prepared for them.

Exposure: Students must exposed to what scientists and engineers do.  This helps them know the variety of career possibilities available to them.

Experiences: One really needs some hands-on experiences to gain confidence in a subject. Try it out, then you'll know if you're good at it, want to do it, etc.  And confidence aligns with better performance in a subject.  Don't think so? But some studies have found that girls do as well or better than boys in math & science until the end of high school.  By then they are given the message that aren't as good as boys in this subject and coincidentally, they begin to perform poorly. For some reason, girls are given messages that make them feel less confident in their abilities in science and engineering, even when they do very well in these subjects.  Experience is the key to build confidence and better performance in STEM for all students.

Expectation: Expectation is predictive. Youth & Adults live up or down expectations. Pay attention to the words you say and the tone you set before all children, teens and adults.  Think back to the example of girls and math. 

At the end of her talk, I was the great science stalker that I am.  I managed to get not only a picture with her (even as her handler was trying to shuttle her out), but I hugged her, too.  I had to, I just had to.  I was ready to tackle the handler.  I was like, "Lady, do you not know how momentous this moment is for me right now?  I'm  seeing one of my role models - in the flesh, before my eyes. I'm ready to body-check for the chance to meet this woman!"  But it was all good.  Both Dr. Jemison and her handler were really sweet and accommodating and allowed some very quick group pictures before whisking her away to catch a flight out of Kansas City.

Dr. Jemison talking with a high school student from Kansas City. The young lady was sharing her interest in science.
My picture with Dr. Jemison, along with the outreach staff at St. Louis Science Center

Dr. Jemison is involved with science outreach and STEM diversity through two great programs: International Science Camp – The Earth We Share and Making Science Make Sense. Check them both out for more information.

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