Open Forum on Broadening Participation

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  • 1.  Talking to 8th graders

    Posted 10-13-2022 08:07 AM
    This last week I have been talking to 8th graders about natural selection and evolutionary science in the classes of Ms. Kayla Mintz at Gahanna Middle School East in Ohio.  The student body at this school is quite diverse, and for many of the African American and Hispanic students in these classes this was their first opportunity to interact with an African American scientist.

    The class sessions were conducted over Zoom and the students were highly engaged.  I received questions that the students had thought about ahead of time. I was impressed by the breadth and depth of their questions:

    What is the point of hair, and why do we have it in such random places? And, why is our hair placement not like other mammals?

    Is there some science we cannot do? Not because we are unable but because ethics, like a list of things that everyone agrees not to do?

    What is the greatest challenge you have faced in science?

    Can we get other people's genes and transfer them to other people and then the person's characteristics change? Similar to what we do with genetically modified foods.

    Is natural selection different for every species?

    Did you experience any setbacks because of your skin color?

      What education did you have to get to your position? 

      Do our genetics determine how often we get sick or how we react to illness?

       What does natural selection look like in a coral reef?

       Is there a lot of drama between scientists since you have to review each other's work?

       How long does it take to become a scientist?

       Can animals and plants that are asexual be naturally selected? How does that work since they are genetic clones?

       Can you be any scientist you want or does a program have to assign you to what they think will work better for you?

       How long did it exactly take you to find all of this research?

       What is your least favorite type of science?

       What are some things that cause natural selection?

      What is your coolest learning experience?


      How often do you get to work in a lab?

       Is lab work more paperwork or more action in your opinion?

      In addition to the prepared questions the students had no shortage of questions during the class sessions.Given the availability of Zoom type technologies we should be doing more in class visits for K-12 students.It helps them to see scientists as regular people, and people that they can aspire to be some day.


       



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      Joseph Graves PhD
      Research Director
      North Carolina A&T State University
      Greensboro NC
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    1. 2.  RE: Talking to 8th graders

      Posted 10-14-2022 11:05 AM
      Hi Dr. Graves!

      Thank you for sharing about your experience! It's fascinating to hear about the mixture of science and academic career questions that they had for you. I love to see that there was interest in everything from anatomy to marine biology.  I'm curious to hear how you came upon the opportunity to talk to these students and agree that there should be more programs aimed at bringing scientist into the classroom.

      One program that comes to mind is "Skype a Scientist" they match scientist with teachers that then plan out a virtual visit from the scientist to their classroom but would love to hear from others on this forum about any other programs that might be out there. Let's get more scientist into classrooms!

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      Jishyra Serrano (She/Her)
      Community Engagement Manager
      OFBP
      AAAS
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    2. 3.  RE: Talking to 8th graders

      Posted 10-14-2022 11:27 AM
      In Florida, the Thompson Earth Systems Institute and the Florida Museum of Natural History, through the University of Florida, have an amazing program called "Scientist in Every Florida School" where we do just that. We can get an expert on anything to come talk to our students with about 2 or 3 weeks notice, and it is always a quality engagement!

      Check out the program here
      Karen S. Bruening
      Science Educator/Engineering Team Sponsor
      Pensacola High School
      850-462-5484

      "Being a scientist is the four best jobs on Earth.
      You are a detective, an adventurer, an artist, and a storyteller."
      Louis J. Guillette, Ph.D.







    3. 4.  RE: Talking to 8th graders

      Posted 10-14-2022 12:19 PM
      Hi Karen,

      Thank you so much for sharing this great resource, and for sharing the link to the program! It seems like a great resource for teachers, students, and scientist in Florida that would like to be involved in broadening participation in STEM.

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      Jishyra Serrano (She/Her)
      Community Engagement Manager
      OFBP
      AAAS
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    4. 5.  RE: Talking to 8th graders

      Posted 10-17-2022 08:55 AM
      Dear Jishyra, In this case the teacher of the classes in question reached out directly to me and asked if I would be willing to speak to her classes.  The request was motivated by the fact that the teacher in question wanted her students to interact with someone other than the stereotypical concept of a scientist (white and male).

      I have participated in formal programs such as "Skype a Scientist" as well as the annual Science Fest in NC.  The point is that we as scientists should do all we can to interact with the community of non-scientists (particularly locally). This will help to erode the standard media/Hollywood tropes of who and what a scientist does (we are not all "mad scientists" whose irresponsible behavior results in some terrible disaster.)

      Joe Graves

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      Joseph Graves PhD
      Research Director
      North Carolina A&T State University
      Greensboro NC
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    5. 6.  RE: Talking to 8th graders

      Posted 10-17-2022 04:39 PM

      The questions the students are asking are typical of questions 8th grade students ask. You also get many similar questions in lower grades.

      Children are eager to learn.

      The problem getting scientist-child interactions in the classroom is that teachers are required to teach a specific curriculum and achieve specific test goals. This limits time available for, what I would call, real learning. Even schools with strong science curriculums have these time constraints.

      As to the questions themselves, you could write books on these questions.



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      David Harden
      Senior Scientist
      Vista CA
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