Scientists At Work: Activities and Books to Promote Science Literacy

Promote Science Literacy - Scientists at WorkScience understanding is key to making our way in the world. Whether we are making decisions about our health care, attempting to understand currents events, or learning to perform a new job, science knowledge plays an important role.

The major goal of scientists is to develop current theories that explain bodies of data and predict outcomes of further investigations. Engineers use their knowledge to solve problems.

Modeling, critiquing, and communicating are equally important in STEM fields as are observing and conducing research, testing a hypothesis, and analyzing data.

Promote Science Literacy

Hands-on science instruction and experience in inquiry science is important for understanding STEM concepts. However, it is also important for students to develop an understanding of what scientists actually DO in their day-to-day work. Today, I share a few tips to improve your student’s science literacy.

Encourage students to read nonfiction during independent reading time. Consider reading aloud a biography of a scientist that corresponds with your current unit of study.

Give a book talk about a new nonfiction title. Invite students to share a short book talk on a title they have read.

Create book display to highlight scientists at work. Rotate themes on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Set up a display of the tools and equipment scientists use.

Ask students to interview a scientist in your community. Create posters to share what you’ve learned with others.

Take a field trip to visit with scientists in the field. Consider agricultural sciences, healthcare, and engineering related work.

hydrogeologyScientists at Work

Reading literature and non-fiction books that feature real-world scientists helps students to develop a greater understanding of the world of science. They realize that science isn’t just lab coats and goggles. Here are a few titles that detail the skills and varied experiences of STEM careers.

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard
Citizen science is the study of the world by the people who live in it. In this title, Burns introduces readers to children and adults, scientists and nonscientists who study nature in an effort to learn more and save particular species of animals.

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe
In 2006, a beekeeper discovered his hives were completely empty. What had happened to the 20 million bees? Soon, other beekeepers had the same story. This book describes how scientists worked alongside aviculturalists to discover what we now call colony collapse disorder.

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion
Join oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeryer as he takes readers around the globe and shares his insight after years of tracking debris. With data of ocean currents he brings this concern to the public eye.

The Frog Scientist
Years ago, scientists had discovered that all around the globe, frogs were dying. The decline has many causes, including habitat loss and disease. Follow along with Tyrone, a young man passionate about frogs, who becomes an amphibian scientist and discovers that the most commonly used pesticide in the United States plays a role in the demise of his beloved frogs.

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity 
Two rovers were sent to Mars in 2003 to discover whether water had ever existed there. See for yourself how the imagination drives scientists and engineers to overcome hurdles and ultimately build models and simulations.

Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (Newbery Honor Book)
This multi-award winning title offers a thrilling story of the Manhattan Project. The author details how Oppenheimer recruited scientists from a variety of backgrounds to work on plans for an atomic bomb.

 

entomologycareersI encourage you to begin to explore science career options in more depth. Keep a notebook of what you’ve learned. I have shared two previous careers we have explored: Entomology and Hydrogeology.

Changing Our World: Girls in Engineering Day Activities

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Introduce A Girl To Engineering Day which aims to mobilize women and men in an effort to connect girls to careers in engineering.

Engineering Day Activities @EvaVarga.netIn years past, we have taken part in several Girls in Engineering events locally, supported by universities and private organizations including the American Association of University Women, The Society of Women Engineers, and SciGirls. As a result, my daughter has been encouraged to pursue a career in a STEM field.

Founded originally by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951, National Engineers Week is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers. The 2016 National Engineers Week is February 21st – 27th.

Only 12% of the nation’s engineers are women, and more than half of school-aged girls say they do not consider careers in science, technology, engineering or math. Misha Malyshev, CEO of Teza Technologies,  works with partner nonprofits to increase educational opportunities and encourage young women to pursue STEM careers.

Learn how you can encourage your girl to take an interest in science and engineering.

Girl Day Celebrates Girl Engineers

February 25th has been designated as Girl Day, an opportunity to teach girls about the difference they can make in the world as an engineer or STEM professional and to celebrate women in STEM. The goal is to show girls how creative engineering is and how engineers are changing our world. 

Engineers Week_Girl DayKids (especially girls) often don’t know about engineering, or they have misconceptions about the field. Whether you are a parent, teacher, counselor, or volunteer here are five things to share about engineers and their work.

Curiosity—Engineers ask lots of questions. Why? How? What if? 

Creativity—Engineering is a great outlet for the imagination—the perfect field for independent thinkers. 

Teamwork—Engineering takes teamwork, and engineers work with al kinds of people inside and outside the field. Whether they’re designers or architects, doctors or entrepreneurs, engineers are surrounded by smart, inspiring people.

Opportunities—An engineering degree offers lots of freedom in finding a person’s dream job. It can be a launching pad for jobs in business, design, medicine, law, and government. To employers or graduate schools, an engineering degree reflects a well-educated individual who has been taught ways of analyzing and solving problems that can lead to success in all kinds of fields.

Helping Others—Imagine what life would be like without pollution controls to preserve the environment, life-saving medical equipment, or low-cost building materials for fighting global poverty. All this takes engineering. In very real and concrete ways, engineers save lives, prevent disease, reduce poverty, and protect our planet.

Hands-on Activities 

Looking for a hands-on activity for your co-op or STEM Club? Here’s are a few of my favorites:

Reverse Engineering Activity—The science of taking things apart to see how they work; kids LOVE this activity.

Protect the Beach—Engineers design and build protection for our beaches, lakes, and rivers. From DiscoverE, this activity demonstrates how waves affect sand on a beach.

Seismic Shake-Up—From Design Squad Global: Hundreds of millions of people live in places around the world where earthquakes are common. Can you design a structure that’s stable and sturdy enough to survive an earthquake’s vibrations? Then test your structure on a shake table, a device engineers use to simulate the shaking of an earthquake.

Build a Simple Motor—Explore in depth how we can convert the potential chemical energy inside a battery to kinetic energy by creating a very simple motor.

Emergency ShelterFrom Design Squad Global: Who might need an emergency shelter—and why? People seeking shelter could include hikers, campers, homeless people, or people caught in a flood, hurricane, or other disaster. Decide who you want to design your shelter for. Then build one sturdy and big enough to hold at least one person.

Build a Roller Coaster—Last time you went on an amusement ride, did you realize it took engineers to design such thrill-producing rides and keep them safe? Different types of engineers work together to build roller coasters. Mechanical engineers might design the loops & drops while structural engineers oversee the structural aspect of the design. Let’s get creative! Design and build a roller.

Engineering: World's Tallest Buildings Unit StudyYou might also be interested in the engineering unit I developed for my STEM Club kids as we explored the World’s Tallest Buildings. This short unit study includes a timeline project, integrated writing assignment, and an oral presentation.

Linking up at Junior High Junction

Badges, Bears, and Eagles: An evening with Steven Callan

We had the opportunity to meet the acclaimed author of Badges, Bears, and Eagles: The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden recently. Over his 30 year career as a wildlife protection officer, Steven Callan conducted some of the most fascinating and highly successful wildlife investigations in the state of California.  As Cultural Director for the local Sons of Norway lodge, I invited him as a special guest to talk about his experiences.

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badges bears and eaglesHe shared photographs and anecdotes of the many undercover cases he was a part of during his career.  He is most proud of his efforts to save Lake Matthews from development,  a large reservoir in Riverside County, California, located in the Cajalco Valley in the foothills of the Temescal Mountains.  Lake Mathews is surrounded by approximately 4,000 acres of protected land that was declared a state ecological reserve in 1982.

After his talk, he visited with the lodge members and signed copies of his book.  He and his wife, Kathy, were warm and eager to talk with us.  We would have loved to spend more time with them.

callanHis book is available on Amazon and I highly recommend it. I found Badges, Bears, and Eagles to be an intriguing memoir. Callan,  followed the footsteps of his father Wallace J. Callan, a respected Game Warden for the State of California, into a distinguished career as a compassionate, yet tough law enforcement officer. He writes of his adventures in the wild, but far more, his book is filled with drama and suspense.

This book will make a wonderful supplementary text for a high school science course (Biology, Wildlife Science, or Environmental Science). I look forward to discussing it with my children in a few years.

To the delight of the his audience, during his presentation at the lodge, we learned that his grandfather was a Norwegian immigrant. To learn more about Steve Callan’s work and to stay informed of his speaking engagements and his highly anticipated upcoming sequel to Badges, Bears, and Eagles, check out his website or follow him on Facebook.

Science Career Options: Hydrogeology

Since she was little, when asked what career she might like to pursue, my daughter has always proclaimed with glee, “I want to be an engineer!”  Upon participating in Wow! these past couple of years, she has learned of the variety of engineering fields and her answer evolved, “… an environmental, architectural, electrical engineer.”  To be honest, I am not quite sure she knows for certain, but I love that her interest has never swayed.

To help her to understand the diversity of career options, we recently had an opportunity to visit an acquaintance who owns a hydrogeology firm locally. Today, I would like to share with you some of the things we learned during our visit as well as explore the career options in hydrogeology.

hydrogeology careers

Hydrogeology

Hydrogeology is the area of geology that deals with the distribution and movement of groundwater in the soil and rocks of the Earth’s crust (commonly in aquifers).  Hydrogeology is an interdisciplinary subject and as such, it can be difficult to account fully for the chemical, physical, biological and even legal interactions between soil, water, nature and society.

Essentially, hydrogeologists study of the interaction between groundwater movement and geology. Groundwater does not always flow in the subsurface down-hill following the surface topography.  Groundwater flows along gradients from high pressure to low pressure and hydrogeologists need to understand several diverse fields at both the experimental and theoretical levels.

During our visit, the engineers shared with us the tools of the trade and anecdotes of specific jobs they had had experience with recently.  We were surprised to learn that much of their work (at least at this office) was related to landfills.

Hydrogeology Careers

While geologists in the energy and mineral industries face are generally susceptible to rise and fall of the economy, those who study the movement and chemistry of water seeping through rocks and sediment find demand for their expertise steady.

“I can’t think of any unemployed hydrogeologists,” says Roy Haggerty, an associate professor of hydrogeology at Oregon State University, Corvallis. Water is essential, irreplaceable, and, as populations and economies grow, increasingly in demand and endangered.

hydrogeology

The work of a hydrogeologist can vary considerably according to the sector, employer and area of specialism.  Hydrogeologists can oversee the cleanup of spills and contamination. They work with experts who specialize in geology, wastewater, water supply, waste management, soils, and organizations that know how to clean up pollution or contamination. They may also help with designs for new facilities to help prevent future contamination.

Environmental consulting companies employ about 80% of hydrogeologists in the United States. New niches open regularly as hydrogeologists collaborate with scientists in other disciplines to tackle huge environmental challenges, such as forecasting how changing climate will affect water resources and aquatic life.

Our visit to the hydrogeology office was memorable.  As we drove away, my daughter exclaimed, “That was really interesting. I had no idea that a hydrogeologist’s work was so important.”  Our guides encouraged us to continue to explore geologic sciences in school.  They also emphasized the importance of good communication skills, particularly writing.  Geologists in all fields need to be able to communicate complicated information to others and write a variety of reports and letters.

In addition, “People skills are invaluable, which is why I say that the most important things I did as a graduate student was go to professional society meetings,” stated Leonard Kornikow, a hydrogeologist with the US Geological Survey.  At the middle school and high school level, talking in depth with adults in fields of interest is equally important.

Salary

Average salary range: $42,000 to $67,000 per year

If you are interested in further exploring geology with your children, there are many activities and curriculum materials available.  I have developed a complete earth science curriculum called Our Dynamic Earth.  It is a ten-week curriculum that incorporates more than 20+ activities and the lesson plans are fully outlined for you.  Background knowledge, notebooking pages, and suggestions for extension activities are included.

Our Dynamic Earth

Science Career Options: Entomology Careers

career options

Does your child love insects and creepy crawlies?

Does she enjoy spending time outdoors, exploring nature?

Does he have jars and terrariums all over his bedroom with little critters he loves and cares for?

Do you pull up a lawn chair on your grandparents porch in the middle of the night to watch the moths flicker about the porch light?

 

If you answered yes to any one of these questions, a career in the field of entomology may just be the career for you.  Entomology is the scientific study of insects. Many entomologists specialize in a single order or even a family of insects.

The science of entomology provides many choices and opportunities for those interested in the diversity of nature. While some entomologists work in the field, others work in the laboratory or classroom, and others find niches in regulatory entomology or the pest control industry. The options for entomology careers are as diverse as insects themselves. Explore some of the fascinating careers described below.

entomologycareersEntomology Careers

research entomologist with the Forest Service who studies the chemical reaction between insects and plants.  Bugs’ Life Not so Rosy Around Young Entomologist

Forensic entomologists use their expertise and knowledge of insects to help solve crimes.

A plant protection entomologist typically works within the field of agriculture to the study of insects as they affect food, feed, and fiber crops. Meet Lincoln Moore, an entomologist with USDA and an educator at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA.

Medical entomologists are concerned with the role insects play in causing diseases in animals and humans.

Convincing the public of the economic and physiological benefits of maintaining insect diversity is extremely important.; the perfect job for conservation entomologists.

Salary

Average Entry-Level:  $29,260 per year

Average:  $47,740 per year

If you are interested in further exploring entomology with your children, there are many activities and curriculum materials available.  I have developed a fun, hands-on unit study called Introductory Entomology.  It is a six-week unit that incorporates more than 10 hands-on activities and many suggested extension activities.

Introductory Entomology (Insects) Unit Study