After finishing my dissertation, I’m finally catching my breath and doing some of the fun, community building things that I love about science.
A. For my colleagues, I developed a shared database of biocrust references. Yes, there are enough people in the world specifically interested in this that we want a centralized place to find publications. If you are one of them, please contribute! Anyone in the world can view and add new files! Please contact me (email@example.com) if you would like to become and administrator – administrators will periodically check for records that are duplicates or that are not about biocrusts.
B. I also judged the Corrales Elementary science fair and it was a hoot and half!
My sincere advice is:
1) Judge a local science fair to support diversity and interest in STEM.
2) If you are a judge: ask questions, don’t talk the kid’s ear off. You may think you are helping to “teach” them, but the actual learning is the student talking to a (scary) stranger about the project that they did. (The snarky way of saying this is: “It’s not about you”).
3) Discipline yourself to give equal time and attention to the kids who seem overwhelmed and out-of-place and the kids who are charismatic and knowledgeable. The kids who already like STEM are going to be just fine – they will find people to support them all along the way and we should by all means support them. The kids who showed up and did the work but don’t know if they see themselves as liking/fitting in are the exact students that we want to support and retain if we are going to do more than give lip service to increasing diversity in STEM.
I love that kids are naturally curious and have time to completely nerd out on whatever they get interested in. Incidentally, I was not one of those kids, at least not about science – I chose to answer the questions “where do crystals grow the best,” “which camera takes the best special effects photos,” and “which model plane flies the best” in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, respectively.
I didn’t get interested in science until Mr. Polansky’s biology class in 10th grade.
The all-time favorite science fair project that I have judged is a little girl (1st or 2nd grade?) who wanted to know which substrate would make a goat’s head grow the best. If you know what a goat’s head is, you will know that this student may be a budding “evil scientist” because why would anyone want to make them grow even better!?! If you don’t know, picture waking up in the morning and stepping on a lego in your bare feet, except the lego has evolved spines in every orientation! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribulus_terrestris
Anyway, she tried sand, water, gravel, dead leaves, and orange juice. Her most compelling result: “The orange juice one smells really bad.”
If that didn’t teach her about the scientific process, I don’t know what could!