Friday, February 18, 2011

When was the last time you visited a science center or museum?

I'm in Washington, DC now.  I'm in town for the AAAS (Science Magazine) conference.  I love science conferences and I love this gathering in particular.  It's the world's largest science conference and an inter-disciplinary mix of scientists, social scientists, engineers, educators and science-tech policy makers .  The energy is amazing.  Nerd heaven, I say. Nerd heaven, indeed.

And on February 16 and 17, 2011, I attended the first ever International Public Science Events Conference, a pre-conference gathering of outreach scientists, science educators (formal & informal) and related institutions.  We shared ideas, successes, and challenges to promoting science and engineering to the general public - you - via small and large events and celebrations.  I co-moderated a workshop on Broadening Participation with the incomparable and kindred Madhu Katti of Reconciliation Ecology

Me with Madhu Katti
We focused on ways science event planners could attract audiences beyond the 'usual suspects' which are white or Asian middle-class families from suburbia, with one or both parents college educated.  In what ways can science events be marketed so that they experience increased participation from families of color, or new citizen families, or working-class families, families from the inner city or deep rural parts of their respective states, or make them enjoyable for people who aren't 12 years old or younger?

All the conference participants shared ways to make our science meet-ups,science cafes, science cabarets, and science events more accessible and engaging.  That was the objective of the entire pre-conference. Then as I listening to Dr. Dennis Wint, President and CEO of The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA, discuss how and why science centers/museums matter in public engagement, I began to wonder...How important is science and math education to people who aren't in the business of science or math education.  I mean, yeah, I know you think it's important, but how would you articulate that to another parent or community member?
Me with Dr. Wint of the Franklin Institute

Then Dr. Wint touched on how science centers/museums are a great science educational resource, sometimes the best thing going if your school system is slashing and burning education in science, math, and arts - like many are. I agree, and I wondered how many people are taking advantage of these continuing education centers?
So I did my own social media poll. When's the last time you, your friends/family visited a science center or museum? Which one? What city?  Folk responded on twitter using the hashtag

I got about 20 responses.  Most people attended fairly recently (within the last few months, I assume spending family time over the holiday). Here's a summary of responses.
  • MIT Museum for opening of MIT150 exhibit
  • Ontario Science Center in Toronto
  • Franklin Institute in Philadelphia!
  • American Museum of Natural History in NYC x2
  • Science Centers of San Jose, Philadelphia and Cleveland
  • Science Museum & Childrens Museum of Atlanta
  • Hong Kong Science Museum for the exhibition "Marvelous Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci"
  • Liberty Science Center Jersey City, NJ
  • Discovery Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • National Space Center Leics, UK. 
  • Science Museum, London x2
  • Natural History Museum, London x2
  • North Carolin Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh-Durham 
  • Museum of Life + Science in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
  • Fels Planetarium (Part of the Franklin Institute, so it gets another tally)
  • St. Louis Science Center x4 (my backyard)
  • McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center Concord NH
  • Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in DC
  • The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago
  • in Wilmington, NC (they have a giant ground sloth skeleton)
  • Taupo Vocano Centre in New Zealand
  • Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago

also got some Zoo/Aquarium/Botanical Garden responses, too

What about you?  When's the last time you visited a science center, what city?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day, from my backyard to yours.

See how much urban nature loves you. It blooms with heart-shaped leaves for you.

From my heart to yours.

big hearts

little hearts

many hearts

jagged hearts

smooth hearts

I took all of these pictures last summer 2010, at various parks in St. Louis, Missouri.  I flashed away because I loved the unique shape of the leaves. Some are from Catalpa trees, others from weedy vines.  But aren't they all grand?

Spring will soon be here.  Keep your eyes open for heart-shaped leaves in your backyard and share the discovery with me here.

Happy Valentine's Day!
demystifying nature, letting everyone experience

Friday, February 11, 2011

First Bird Friday! A Survey & New Nature Blogging Meme

I wish I could say this was my idea. It isn't. (But to my knowledge the title is my idea).  Audubon California has a weekly survey. Each Friday they ask online readers to tell them the identity of of the first bird they see each Friday Morning and let them know your city.  You can submit your answers until 12 noon (PST) and then they share the results on their blog - The Audublog.  That's it.  It's quick, easy, and fun.  Click here.

Me & a fledgling baby goldfinch. Fell out of the tree and one to one of my campers (Summer 2010).  I had to take take some pictures with's like a local urban wildlife celebrity. J

But other than fun, another reason to do is to get you to start to deliberately taking notice of the wildlife around you.  And that's what I inspire you to do everyday.  We can't begin to make our communities safer and cleaner and greener until we take stock in what we have - the good and the bad. And Urban wildlife is all good.

All all bird life counts, as they say:
And if you don't see a Bald Eagle or a California Condor, don't worry. That's not what this is all about. This is about celebrating the common right alongside the rare and unusual.
Don't worry if you don't know the name of the bird you saw. Make note of the bird's characteristics -- size, color, general shape. You can use that info to look up the bird's identity on the Audubon's online bird guide. Then complete the survey.
If you want to follow all of the First Bird Friday! excitement, then check out the Audubon California on Facebook, their blog, or Twitter @AudubonCA hashtag #firstbird.

And yes, I've submitted my answer....American Robin.  I spotted it on a little patch of ground (cause it's snow all over the place here in St. Louis, MO) at Hazelwood East Middle School by a Paper birch tree.

Fellow nature bloggers, help spread the word.  Readers, tell me in comments what you saw and visit their site to submit your answer.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Ground Hog's day 2011

Other than holidays that are celebrated with candy, Groundhog's Day is my FAV.O.RITE.  I'm biased because it's my birthday. I didn't lay eyes on a for-real-groundhog until I was an adult, but I've always felt attracted to all animals, small rodents in particular.  Seems coincidental that my research has been with field mice and in prairies and woodlands. 
Since I was a kid, I was outdoors, playing in the grass, trying to get a closer look at the animals.  Now that I'm a trained biologist, what are considered professional skills seem almost like super powers that I learned to wield.  Part of me sometimes wonder if being born on Groundhog's Day pre-destined my steps in zoology.  Is the Groundhog my spirit guide? Am I ruled by the Order Rodentia? I don't know.

But even as a young child - and still today - I always have had this unexplicable attraction to animals and wild places.  I can just spot a nest or den or an animal hiding in plan sight. I've got the eye or ear or something.  I always seem to be in the right place at the right time. (Though I seldom have a camera or a good lens to document the occassions). This was one of those luck times, however.

Groundhogs in the City.
Recorded summer 2010, behind a business park parking lot off of Brentwood Boulevard in St. Louis, Missouri. Shout out to my sister who pointed out the little guys to me.

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