Thursday, October 23, 2003

Citizen Scientist

On Edblogger Praxis, ran across this science blog, Citizen Scientist. Written by Dr. Christine Terry, a post-doc in molecular biology, the blog introduces kids to science and technology on the web. It makes me wish there was something like this when I was in high school, eons ago.

And this is how she got started:
    One day, during my senior year of high school, my AP Biology teacher taught us how to extract DNA from an onion as part of a lab assignment. This exercise was one of many that helped me to realize that science was “do-able” and that I could play a role in a scientific world. Suddenly, science seemed “real”; it was more than a collection of facts on a page. If you can enable a student to see a subject or an event in a new light, that spark might continue to burn and lead them to pursue further inquiry. In the process of going on to major in biochemistry and pursue a Ph.D. in genetics, I have had the opportunity to lead half-day workshops for high school and undergraduate students to introduce them to the hands on aspects of science. I have also mentored both undergraduate and graduate students doing research projects in the laboratory of my graduate advisor, Dr. Richard Gourse.

    It is imperative that students better realize the relevance of a scientific education in today’s world. Scientists and educators can work to bridge this gap and present “science” to students in the context of today’s world. As one of the inaugural fellows in the "Kindergarten through Infinity" program (funded by NSF as part of the GK12 initiative), I worked with Drs. Richard Lehrer and Leona Schauble (UW Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction) and local Wisconsin elementary teachers to develop and implement science curricula for 6th grade classrooms. I developed the initial concept for using microbes as a model system to explore population growth. However, multiple members of this research group, (scientists, educators and science educators) helped to develop and implement the curriculum. This collaborative process exemplified to me how science outreach can be effectively implemented at the primary and secondary levels.

    Students should be given every opportunity to better understand the world in which we live, because even if they don’t “grow up” to be scientists they shouldn’t grow up to be afraid of science. Throughout my career, I hope to continue to work with students (at different stages) to help them discover science while continuing to learn about the educational process from others around me.

I echo her thoughts about the importance of scientific literacy. I'm bringing up the larger political context in that a decent scientific understanding impacts our daily lives in the choices we make. For instance, we've got GM foods, rBGH, and even the global warming issue to deal with. Having a decent grounding in science makes a huge difference in being able to communicate and maintain any sort of dialogue about these public health issues.