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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