Archive for the 'Kids and science' category

DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students 2013: let's dedicate December to helping public school classrooms.

Since 2006, science bloggers have been working with DonorsChoose.org and our readers to help public school students and teachers get the resources they need to make learning come alive.

Chances are you care about science, or education, or both. Probably you're the kind of person who thinks that solid -- and engaging -- math and science education is an important resource for kids to have as they hurtle into the future and face the challenges of our modern world.

It's a resource that's getting squeezed by tight public school budgets. But as 2013 draws to a close, I invite you to do something small that can have an immediate impact.

DonorsChoose is a site where public school teachers from around the U.S. submit requests for specific needs in their classrooms — from books to science kits, overhead projectors to notebook paper, computer software to field trips — that they can’t meet with the funds they get from their schools (or from donations from their students’ families). Then donors choose which projects they’d like to fund and then kick in the money, whether it’s a little or a lot, to help a proposal become a reality.

Over the last several years, bloggers have rallied their readers to contribute what they can to help fund classroom proposals through DonorsChoose, especially proposals for projects around math and science, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, funding hundreds of classroom projects, and impacting thousands of students.

Which is great. But there are a whole lot of classrooms out there that still need help.

To create the scientifically literate world we want to live in, let’s help give these kids -- our future scientists, doctors, teachers, decision-makers, care-providers, and neighbors -- the education they deserve.

One classroom project at a time, we can make things better for these kids. Joining forces with each other people, even small contributions can make a big difference.

How to join in the fun with a challenge of your own:

1. Go to donorschoose.org

Scroll to the bottom of the page. In the second column of links from the left, right under Campaigns, click Create a registry.

2. You'll find yourself on a page that gives you several options for what kind of Giving Page you'd like to create. Click the one that says "Science Bloggers for Students".

3. Name your challenge, add a personal message if you like, and choose a "Giving Group" from the pull-down menu. Specify the kind of classroom projects you'd like to appear on your Giving Page. (If you'd rather hand-pick projects for your Giving Page, you can do that after you've saved your Giving Page customizations -- instructions are under #3 on the "Customize Your Giving Page" page.)

4. Share your Giving Page -- on your blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, wherever! Let people know about the projects you'd like to help fund, and put your dollars (and networks of information sharing) together to make it happen. Let me know you've mounted a challenge -- and give me the link to your Giving Page -- and I will publicize it here, and on Twitter, and on Facebook!

How to help as a donor:



Follow the links to your chosen blogger’s challenge on the DonorsChoose website.

Pick a project from the slate the blogger has selected. Or more than one project, if you just can’t choose. (Or, if you really can’t choose, just go with the “Give to the most urgent project” option at the top of the page.)

Donate.

Even if you can’t make a donation, you can still help! 

Spread the word about these challenges using web 2.0 social media modalities. Link your favorite blogger’s challenge page on your MySpace page, or put up a link on Facebook, or FriendFeed, or LiveJournal (or Friendster, or Xanga, or …). Tweet about it on Twitter (with the #scibloggers4students hashtag). Share it on Google +. Sharing your enthusiasm for this cause may inspire some of your contacts who do have a little money to get involved and give.

Here’s the permalink to my giving page.

Thanks in advance for your generosity.

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Why reporting abusive tweets to the twit's mother might not work.

Folks have been tweeting about a particular exchange on Twitter in which:

  • One person tweeted something abusive at another Twitter user
  • A third Twitter user offered to provide the target of the abuse with the mailing address of the first person's mother, the better to print out and mail her the abusive tweet her darling son had sent
  • The first person tweeted what he said was a sincere apology for the abuse in his earlier tweet

The conclusion some have drawn from this one exchange is that Twitter needs a "report this tweet to the tweeter's mom" button, which will seriously cut down on Twitter abuse.

Now, I chuckled at the abusive twit's speedy about-face, but it only takes a few moments' reflection to recognize that this strategy for reducing online abuse has problems. Here are just a few from the very top of my head:

  1. It's not a sure thing that Mom will have any problem with the offspring flinging abuse at others. (Maybe Mom flings online abuse herself! Maybe that's where Mom's offspring learned how to fling abuse!)
  2. It's not a sure thing that the offspring flinging abuse actually cares whether Mom knows about it. There seem to be significant stretches of the lifespan during which Mom's approval isn't a goal worth putting any kind of effort toward.
  3. Even if the offspring flinging abuse does care if Mom knows about it and disapproves, tasking Mom with communicating her approval -- especially to offspring no longer living under Mom's roof -- is just giving her more work. When will Mom's thankless work be over?
  4. For some Twitter users one might try to shame, there's a decent chance of misidentifying the corresponding Mom. Now you're giving that misidentified Mom thankless work generated by some other Mom's offspring, which is not cool at all.
  5. Maybe Mom has shuffled off this mortal coil. How are you going to shame her surviving offspring into behaving online now?
  6. Maybe the offspring flinging abuse is not using a real name online.
  7. Maybe the mother of the offspring flinging abuse is not using a real name online. Are you going to compromise her anonymity (for which she may have very good reasons), including providing her actual mailing address to a stranger, simply to deal with her offspring's online behavior? That's not cool.
  8. Where the hell is Dad is all of this? Why is Mom presumed to be the only parent capable of exerting a civilizing force on offspring?

So, nice try, but we're going to have to think harder about how to share online spaces and how best to prevail on people not to be abusive jerks to each other. This is just a subset of the project of being a grown-up who is also a decent human being, and Mom would really like you to figure out how to do this without her constant intervention.

(Plus, would it kill you to sit up straighter while you're online?)

2 responses so far

Passing thoughts about the younger offspring's interaction with popular music, in two scenes.

Scene 1, in the Free-Ride hoopty en route to a music lesson a few weeks ago:

[On the mix-CD in the CD player, a Todd Rundgren song begins to play.]

Younger offspring: Le Roy!

Dr. Free-Ride: Yup!

Younger offspring: The melody of this song is really catchy.

Dr. Free-Ride: I agree.

Younger offspring: But ... what is he actually saying about women? I'm not sure the guy singing the song gets that women are people the same way he and his friend Le Roy are.

Dr. Free-Ride: No, I'm not sure he does either. It was the 1970s, but still.

Younger offspring: Some really catchy songs are problematic.

Dr. Free-Ride: You were bound to notice that sooner or later.

* * * * *

Scene 2, in the Free-Ride kitchen this morning:

Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, want to watch a video for a rap song about evolution?

Younger offspring: Is it about going to a club, drinking a lot, and hitting on people?

Dr. Free-Ride: Um, it's about sexual selection.

Younger offspring: Are there bad words in it?

Dr. Free-Ride: No, I don't think so.

Younger offspring: Musical genres have rules. Maybe it was different when you were young, but nowadays rap songs have to be about going to a club, drinking a lot, and hitting on people, or at least they have to have bad words.

Dr. Free-Ride: Hmmm.

9 responses so far

Another ponderable: Are public elementary schools becoming less secular?

Way back in the last millennium, when I was in a public elementary school in northern New Jersey (approximately 1974-1980), our school had holiday-themed classroom activities and music performances that were mostly secular. Snowmen and sleigh rides and reindeer featured heavily, and for every song or activity that made explicit mention of Christmas, there would be one that made explicit mention of Hanukkah (you know, for balance). It was pretty clear to us students, though, that serious effort was being made to keep holiday-themed stuff at our elementary school as secular as possible ... because that's what was appropriate in a public school (where kids had to be there whether or not they worshipped in a particular way, or at all).

More recently (approximately 2004-present), I have been the parent of students in a public elementary school in northern California where the holiday-themed classroom activities and music performances have been decidedly less secular. There has been an overabundance of straightforward Christmas carols (complete with verses with religious content), weak attempts to recognize the existence of Hanukkah by singing that one dreidel song, and no apparent effort to recognize the existence of (let alone incorporate in activities, performances, or celebrations) the seasonal celebrations of other religious traditions (e.g., Diwali). And, this convergence of "winter holidays" towards Christmas in the public elementary school has been happening despite a significant population of kids in the classroom who are not Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim.

All this leaves me wondering: Were serious efforts to keep religion from encroaching on our public school activities an East Coast Thing? Were they a late 20th Century thing? How is it that the adults running things in a significantly less diverse school district some 40 years ago were better at acknowledging that their student population might not all believe the same thing or partake of the same religious or cultural traditions than are the adults running things in our wildly diverse school district here in California?

Honestly, it's all pretty weird, and I'd like to understand the source of this receding commitment to secularism better.

14 responses so far

DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students 2012: Into the home stretch.

Since our drive began, the East Coast weathered a big storm (and is now coping with another). People have also been maybe a little preoccupied with elections.

Still, almost 300 generous readers of science blogs have so far raised $24,586 to fund classroom projects that will reach 12,907 public school students.

That's pretty impressive. But we have a couple more days to do even more good.

The drive runs through midnight Friday, Hawaii time (to be fair to Christie and all) -- that's Saturday, November 10, 6 am Eastern time.

The match code SCIENCE will be active until the very end of the drive. At last check, more than $6,000 of the available $50,000 in matching funds (from the DonorsChoose Board of Directors) have been deployed, but that still leaves more than $40,000 in matching funds on the table.

We don't want to leave that money on the table when we can use it to help pay for textbooks, microscopes, science kits, field trips, and other resources that will make learning come alive for kids in public school classrooms.

Making a donation through the drive and entering the SCIENCE match code at checkout will double each donor's contribution up to $100.

Some of you may have blown through your whole $100 match already. (I still have $30 left on my match as I try to choose where I want to put it.) Some of you haven't. To get the remainder of the matching funds on the table, we'd need the equivalent of 400 new donors each contributing $100.

A donation of $100 is not a small thing, especially for those of you who are students, or retirees, or unemployed or underemployed. So probably we want to get more than 400 people to step up and contribute what they can -- even a buck (which, with the match, becomes two bucks). And, we need to spread the word -- to family, co-workers, friends who understand how the right teacher, with the right tools, can get kids really excited about learning. If there's a teacher who made a big difference in your life, maybe this is a good excuse to track him or her down to say thanks and point out a project that we can fund by working together.

Share your enthusiasm about specific projects on Twitter, or Facebook, or G+, or FriendFeed, or your Tumblr or LiveJournal. Encourage your online friends to band together to do a bit of tangible good for kids and teachers in the three-dimensional world.

My giving page is here, but I encourage you to check out the giving pages of other Scientopians, and of science bloggers in other parts of the blogosphere.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

2 responses so far

DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students 2012: Super-storm Sandy is not going to stop us!

Gerty-Z got there first, but a good idea is a good idea.

Super-storm Sandy did major damage to the East Coast, especially New Jersey and New York City. The offices of DonorsChoose are in New York City. Their fabulous staff is safe (and mostly dry) and their computer servers are up, which means the Science Bloggers for Students drive has been operational and ready to receive your donations. However, a bunch of potential donors to the drive have probably been kind of distracted keeping their own selves safe and dry.

So, a few things we're doing about this situation.

FIRST, we're extending the drive through next Friday, November 9. This gives our East Coast compatriots who are waiting to get power back a chance to join in the fun. The dollar-for-dollar match from the DonorsChoose Board of Directors will be extended to the end (unless we blow through all $50,000 first, which would be awesome). Just enter SCIENCE in the "Match or gift code" field at checkout, and every dollar you give up to $100 will be doubled.

SECOND, I've added three projects to my giving page from hurricane affected area:

Chemistry textbooks for Thurgood Marshall Academy in New York City where students have been relying on their teacher's notes and outdated textbooks.

Inquiry-based genetics lab kits for Dr. Charles E Brimm Medical Arts High School in Camden, New Jersey, to help students get hands-on experience with modern biological techniques.

Plants and animals for ecosystem and terraria studies at Weequahic High School in Newark, New Jersey, where students are connecting their studies in biology, environmental science, and engineering to everyday issues like what's on the dinner table and how it got there.

In the event that we get these fully funded before the end of the drive, I'll add more.

THIRD, for each of these new projects that we get to full funding before the end of the drive, I will donate $25 to the American Red Cross for Sandy relief. If we get all three fully funded, I'll donate $100 to the American Red Cross for Sandy relief. If we fully fund additional Sandy-affected-area projects beyond these three, it will be an additional $25 out of my pocket to the American Red Cross for each of them.

If you hit your $100 limit on the matching funds, I know you'll lean on your family and friends who care about science education.

We can do this!

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It's not the end of the world (yet): DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students 2012 enters home stretch.

We're coming into the home stretch of our annual DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students drive:

Science Bloggers for Students: No Apocalypse in Sight (Transcript below)

And, now until the end of the drive, you can get your donations matched (up to $100 per donor) thanks to the generosity of the DonorsChoose.org Board of Directors. Just enter the match code SCIENCE in the "Match or gift code" field as you check out.

By the way, the DonorsChoose.org Board of Directors has put up $50,000 in matching funds, so once you've hit your match code limit, you might want to nudge your family, friends, and social media contacts to give to worthy projects and get their donations matched.

My giving page for the challenge is here. You can find other giving pages from Scientopia bloggers here.

Thanks in advance for your generosity!

Transcript of the video:

Today is November 1, 2012, which means that the prediction that the world would end in October of 2012? Didn't happen. Now what?

After your hard work laying in emergency supplies for the apocalypse, a new day dawns ... and there's stuff to do: dishes to wash, rabbit runs to clean, and public school classrooms that still need help getting funds for equipment, field trips, even basic classroom supplies.

Here's where DonorsChoose comes in: Pick a giving page from the Science Bloggers for Students challenge. Check out the projects and find one that matters to you. Give what you can, even if it's just a buck. And now, until the end of the drive, you can use the match code SCIENCE to double your donation, up to $100. Give a dollar, the project you're funding gets two dollars. Give $100, the project gets $200.

The world didn't end -- this time. So take this opportunity to do some good and help some kids before it does.

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An open (cease and desist) letter to a sixth grade English teacher.

Dear Sixth Grade English Teacher,

I know you mean well. I even agree that giving my kid homework assignments that request antonyms for adjectives and adverbs seems pretty pedagogically sound.

However, demanding that students come up with antonyms for any given noun seems like a problem.

What, pray tell, do you expect students to identify as the antonym for "utensil"? Or for "cat"? Or for "mass"?

I would submit to you that these three nouns do not have clear opposites -- or even plausible opposites -- and that they are not unique in this regard.

But framing these vocabulary-builder assignments as if every word in the language must have an antonym, and putting the students on the hook to work out what they are, forces vulnerable children to engage in a category mistake as if it were not a mistake.

I will have you know that some of us, teaching adults, already spend altogether too much time trying to get them to step away from category mistakes. Creating more in the sixth grade vocabulary homework of future generations of college students is not helping.

Just stop it.

Sincerely,

The younger Free-Ride offspring's mother

55 responses so far

The glorious return of DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students (plus the story of how it began).

Since 2006, science bloggers have been working with DonorsChoose.org and our readers to help public school students and teachers get the resources they need to make learning come alive. Is there an origin story for the annual Science Bloggers for Students drive? As a matter of fact*, there is:

Science Bloggers for Students Origin Story (Transcript below)

If you're reading blogs in this neighborhood of the blogosphere, chances are you care about science, or education, or both. Probably you're the kind of person who thinks that solid -- and engaging -- math and science education is an important resource for kids to have as they hurtle into the future and face the challenges of our modern world.

It's a resource that's getting squeezed by tight public school budgets. But we have the opportunity to do something small that can have an immediate impact.

This year, from October 15 through November 5, a number of science bloggers, whether networked, loosely affiliated, or proudly independent, will be teaming up with DonorsChoose in Science Bloggers for Students, a philanthropic throwdown for public schools.

DonorsChoose is a site where public school teachers from around the U.S. submit requests for specific needs in their classrooms — from books to science kits, overhead projectors to notebook paper, computer software to field trips — that they can’t meet with the funds they get from their schools (or from donations from their students’ families). Then donors choose which projects they’d like to fund and then kick in the money, whether it’s a little or a lot, to help a proposal become a reality.

Over the last several years, bloggers have rallied their readers to contribute what they can to help fund classroom proposals through DonorsChoose, especially proposals for projects around math and science, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, funding hundreds of classroom projects, and impacting thousands of students.

Which is great. But there are a whole lot of classrooms out there that still need help.

To create the scientifically literate world we want to live in, let’s help give these kids -- our future scientists, doctors, teachers, decision-makers, care-providers, and neighbors -- the education they deserve.

One classroom project at a time, we can make things better for these kids. Joining forces with each other people, even small contributions can make a big difference.

The challenge this year runs October 15 through November 5. We’re overlapping with Earth Science Week (October 14-20, 2012) and National Chemistry Week (October 21-27, 2012), a nice chance for earth science and chemistry fans to add a little philanthropy to their celebrations. There are a bunch of Scientopia bloggers mounting challenges this year (check out some of their challenge pages on our leaderboard), as well as bloggers from other networks (which you can see represented on the challenge’s motherboard). And, since today is the official kick-off, there is plenty of time for other bloggers and their readers to enter the fray!




How It Works:

Follow the links above to your chosen blogger’s challenge on the DonorsChoose website.

Pick a project from the slate the blogger has selected. Or more than one project, if you just can’t choose. (Or, if you really can’t choose, just go with the “Give to the most urgent project” option at the top of the page.)

Donate.

(If you’re the loyal reader of multiple participating blogs and you don’t want to play favorites, you can, of course, donate to multiple challenges! But you’re also allowed to play favorites.)

Sit back and watch the challenges inch towards their goals, and check the leaderboards to see how many students will be impacted by your generosity.

Even if you can’t make a donation, you can still help! 

Spread the word about these challenges using web 2.0 social media modalities. Link your favorite blogger’s challenge page on your MySpace page, or put up a link on Facebook, or FriendFeed, or LiveJournal (or Friendster, or Xanga, or …). Tweet about it on Twitter (with the #scibloggers4students hashtag). Share it on Google +. Sharing your enthusiasm for this cause may inspire some of your contacts who do have a little money to get involved and give.

Here’s the permalink to my giving page.

Thanks in advance for your generosity.

-----
*It's possible the origin story presented here is not entirely factual, but it sure is compelling! Also, it was created with less than 10% child labor!

Transcript of the video:

In 2006, a small band of science bloggers was bitten by a radioactive spider.

They soon realized their only hope was for teachers to help kids learn math and science so those kids could, some day, find a cure for the relentless tingling.

Public school teachers and students need our help. DonorsChoose gives you the great power to support the classrooms, the supplies, the projects, the field trips that matter to you.

Help Science Bloggers for Students get a generation of kids the math and science education they deserve. Thank you, and we'll see you on the web.

3 responses so far

Friday Sprog Blogging: You've made it clear "it's a girl thing," but is "it" science?

If your Tweeps have been hashtagging about the same things mine have today, there's a good chance you've already seen this video from the European Union:

http://youtu.be/oZtMmt5rC6g

Ummm ... yeah. As science outreach, this would never have worked on a younger time-slice of me. But maybe I'm not the target audience.

In the interest of generating empirical data from the two possible members of the actual target audience to whom I have access, I showed the video to each of the Free-Ride offspring (both daughters, as related in my newly-published story at Story Collider) separately, then asked for their reactions, which I've transcribed below:

From the elder Free-Ride offspring, almost 13 years old:

I didn't really see those women doing science. Plus, they were trying to act too sexy. Yuck.

Me: Did you find any of the visuals engaging?

Some of the sprays of orbs were cool.

Me: How about the glassware?

Sort of. But we don't actually see how any of it is used to do science.

Based on this teaser, I would not watch the full music video.

Me: Um, I think it's supposed to be a teaser for an outreach campaign rather than a music video, although it's interesting that it read to you as "music video."

Or whatever. I feel like I've seen enough of this.

Me: Did you feel like it conveyed any information about science?

No.

Me: Did you feel like it conveyed any information about what kind of people do science?

The only clear scientist in that video was the man. The women in that video didn't come across as scientists. They were more like giggly models with scientific props.

Me: If it were you, what kind of strategy would you use to get girls interested in science?

Don't show me make-up, lipstick, and high heels. Show me an actual scientist at work.

* * * * *

From the younger Free-Ride offspring, 11 years old and no stranger to feminine accoutrements:

Why the high heels?

It was bad. I didn't like it. And science isn't just a girl thing.

Me: What didn't you like about it?

How the guy was all seduced by the girls. And the girls were acting too girly -- abnormally girly.

I didn't feel like anything in the video had anything to do with science. It was just lipstick and stuff -- that's not science.

Me: Well, there's science that goes into making cosmetics.

We didn't see that in the video. We saw make-up exploding on the ground and women giggling.

I don't think this is a good science outreach strategy except to girls who want to have exactly that image.

* * * * *

It appears the sprogs aren't the target audience either -- or, if they are, that this video is 53 seconds of highly produced FAIL.

UPDATE: While the original video was reset to "private", there is a mirror of it:

Because you want to know what the fuss is about, right?

15 responses so far

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