Updated: 10.28.2013

Science is COOL!

This past weekend (October 18-21, 2013,) I attended my first-ever GeekGirlCon in Seattle, Washington. As someone with a deeply rooted love of all things science, this seemed like a great fit for me. And I was NOT disappointed.

I first learned of GGC this past summer from CosmoQuest’s Dr. Nicole Gugliucci (aka, The Noisy Astronomer,) when she put feelers out on Google+ for a few folks to help with educational outreach programs she was putting together for the upcoming convention. After figuring out all of the details, I made our hotel and airline reservations (yes, I dragged my poor, unsuspecting husband, Paul, along on this adventure,) bought our event tickets, and let Nicole know I was definitely attending. A few weeks later, I learned that, along with Amy Davis Roth (@SurlyAmy of SurlyRamics,) I would be assisting Nicole with her Edible Astronomy presentation. Then, due to some unexpected last minute panelist cancellations, I volunteered to sit in on the Careers in Science panel that Nicole was also hosting.

I have to say, as the days grew closer, I was wondering what exactly I had gotten myself into – I am not typically the type of person who volunteers to speak in front of any group of people even if I DO know what I am doing. But if we are to continue to grow as individuals, we have to push the boundaries of our comfort zones, right? So I just pushed all of my introvert-fueled fears aside, and told myself it would be fun…

And guess what ? I HAD A BLAST!!!

I think what totally blew me away was the number of young children that were there… it was astonishing – and they were actually EXCITED about learning science. CosmoQuest ran a weekend-long DIY Science Zone booth where visitors (primarily kids) could learn science in a hands-on, dig-in-and-get-dirty manner. Throughout the course of the weekend we dropped in several times, and there were always wide-eyed kids learning all about science, and having FUN while doing so.

The highlight of the weekend, though, had to be Nicole’s hour-long Edible Astronomy session. Aided by such things as Oreos (which Amy and I distributed to the audience,) uncooked grits, Nerds, and fruit, Nicole demonstrated the phases of the moon, plate tectonics, the size differences between objects in our own solar system, as well as just how much empty space there IS in our little corner of the Universe. But what really floored all three of us was a young girl (no more than 7 or 8 years old we think) who proudly demonstrated her knowledge of things such as volcanoes, magma, plate tectonics, and Titan, the largest moon of Saturn! You could just see the natural wonder as her face lit up as she spoke – and she wanted to learn more. This one little girl, at the tender age of 7 or 8, already KNOWS that science is cool. She does NOT need to be convinced of this fact.

And there are LOTS of other kids her age who ALSO get it.

Unfortunately, it truly saddens me to think how many of these bright, inquisitive kids will lose all interest in science by the time they are “tweens” or teens. NOT because they lose interest, but rather because of peer pressure from “friends” and classmates who think science is boring, useless, and only for “nerds,” or as a result of a teacher who inadvertently turns these future scientists away from science by making it dull/boring, or as something their students need to know for the next battery of standardized tests.

From the earliest age, we need to encourage our kids to ask questions, challenge the scientific Status Quo, and KEEP asking questions until they have no more questions. And then encourage them to come up with MORE questions. NEVER should any child accept an answer of “That’s just the way it is,” or “You are too young to understand the science,” or “It’s not on the standardized test so I don’t have time to talk about it.” Our kids need to be taught age-appropriate experiments that are not only fun, but more importantly, teach the Scientific Method. And if they don’t get the results they expected after running an experiment, they should be encouraged to examine their results and methods to learn why, and figure out what to do differently the next time.

If you are reading this, you probably already are excited by science. But going forward, we all need to lead by example, so that, when our kids are asked what they think about science, their answer is a resounding:

Science is COOL!

 

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