So, to practice what I preach I utilized my “perspectives” philosophy with parents and students at the McKissack Middles School STEAM science night. The school had a whole series of activities and demonstrations to kick off their new Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) initiative in their school. The event was to inform parents and get them on board with the new initiative. I had the honor of being asked to kick off the night with an opening presentation to parents, students, and faculty.
The interesting thing about STEAM is not everybody gets it. I am not sure who is more resistant. I’ve met scientists that feel STEAM is not very substantive and do not have a clue of what activity they could come up with that utilized STEAM in a serious and provocative way. I have met those from the humanities that feel scientists look down on their discipline and hence have a resentment and/or fear of many things science related. I have also met those who simply don’t have a full grasp of the arts nor the sciences. They might have a desire to understand, but may have been so far removed from such dealings, they are reluctant or apprehensive in embracing the concepts.
As mentioned in my previous posts, I find educators to be perception changers. Every time a person learns something new about the world they live in; it modifies their perception in some way. It might reinforce their views or cause them to modify their beliefs in some way. That said, my goal was to change some perceptions that evening. Maybe the change would be about science, about the arts, or maybe even a change in someone’s perception about themselves.
I utilized several pictures of double images. I would simply ask, “what do you see?” Some would see both images, but man could not. If they could not see both images, I would provide them with a bit more information. Many, but not all would eventually see both images. I also pointed out how, once you could see both images, you could not unsee them. I related that to my youth. I told them about when I was younger I thought I was not smart enough to do math. I explained how that was a learned response to math. I had to see they I was intelligent. I had to see that I could do math. Once, I saw it; I could never unsee it. I then went on to explain TEAM and its benefits in education.
After my talk, the principal closed and cited a few points from my talk. I took that as a huge compliment. I am glad I was able to set the occasion. So in closing, I will ask, what do you see?
Kent and I started planning a video synthesis of some of the topics we have discussed to date. We’re looking at the metaphor of pointillism as it relates to our own work in the sciences. With the direction we’re going, I figure it’s a good week to talk about #scicomm. I can think of a couple powerful reasons to champion the benefits of effective scientific communication right off the bat.
How do we broaden the reach of scientific literacy to empower people with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions and learn about local scientific developments? Music, art and storytelling can be powerful communication tools, bringing people into the fold and erasing barriers to scientific literacy. If you’re lucky enough to have a wide platform or some serious #scicomm skills, blogging or writing for national publications is an incredible way to engage a broader audience. Within my current field, I love story maps for their visual impact and narrative style. Regardless of your method, science communication can deepen interest in your field, expose important interdisciplinary connections, and generate conversations that reach way beyond the scientific community.
Let’s not forget the importance of social media! There’s always a lot happening on rocur accounts (rocur stands for rotation curation, and represents a twitter account that tweets from a rotating cast of twitter users) such as @iamscicomm and @geoscitweeps. I’ve learned so much by following experts in other fields, including snake biologists and physicists.