Standing in the Shadows

Science Fair GIVEAWAY Plus Tuesday Three (Contain Your Excitement)

Last night, I sweat up a storm in yoga class. As I’ve mentioned, my experience with yoga appears to be deepening. I am in it, now, actively engaged, eager to learn. It’s fun.

This sense of discovery is what we hope young people have as students. Because there are fewer women in scientific fields and engineering, we wish for girls and young women to get sweaty, too, to be engaged and “in it.”

Recently, I asked an engineer friend, a professor at Smith named Susan Voss, about her journey to the profession. She said, “I was encouraged by a lot of people (teachers and parents) to study engineering, and I went into it very clear with myself that if I did not like it I would change to biology or something else. However, I did like it. I think I liked the methodical and logical ways of thinking and solving problems and analyzing data. I think you would find that many women my age chose to study engineering because they had a father who was an engineer and encouraged them (my case) -- this has been shown in studies I believe and is definitely true of many of my Smith students too.”

My friend, Bill Childs of Spare the Rock Spoil the Child fame (yeah, fame) had engaged scientist role models too in his family (although he became a lawyer) and decided that through kindie (that’s like indie music for kids, stuff the grownups enjoy at least as much as the kids do) music he’d support girls and science, through a program run by Girls Inc. Now you can consider my moment of midlife learning one that has me thinking about girls and science for what it is, a happenstance connection because I am giving away a copy of that CD: Science Fair.

Nerissa and Katryna Nields contributed a song to the CD and she had the crushing would-be scientist middle school experience: “As a would-be scientist, I was crushed when, in seventh grade, my (male) science teacher laughed at my first attempt at lab results. Having spent the summer before looking forward to my first real science class, I quickly concluded from his scornful dismissal that I was a bad scientist. If only he had seen my enthusiasm and taken a bit of time to encourage me. I really did think it had to do with the girl-ness, since all the boys seemed to get it. Fortunately, I met many great female scientists later in high school and college, and I have made peace with my own path.” Nerissa sums up the reason Bill wanted to support girls in science probably, he’d say, better than he could: “But I want my daughter to know that she is a scientist. Just as we recognize that kids learn to read and write in all sorts of different ways depending on their learning style, so we need to teach kids how to inquire, analyze and investigate in all sorts of different ways until we find that style that works. The world needs all of us to be scientists to solve the problems of today and the future.”

All this resonates to me, because I was a reluctant science gal and beyond fearful about math. My concentration at Hampshire College, where science is treated as something intelligent, compassionate people can most certainly learn, was women’s health (a concentration that fell in the School of Natural Science in those days; I studied everything from biology and physical anthropology to psychology).

Problems and opportunities for girls and science aside, we’re talking such musicians as the Nields sharing disc space with the Deedle Deedle Dees. Leave a comment if you’d like a chance in my very unscientific drawing methodology to win a copy. That’s to say, paper, names, hat is how we draw a winner around these parts, no Internet randomness; we kick it old school.

I never use boldface do I? That’s how excited I am about this.

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I haven’t posted a Tuesday trio for a bit so here goes:

Locals, you can see two exhibitions not to be missed and I’ve shared the information but I am underscoring these opportunities: Jay Bolotin’s truly original vision on view at the Smith College Museum of Art (a link to a piece I did about Jay so you can learn more even if you are not local) and the Ezra Jack Keats’ show at the Eric Carle Museum (made me cry, that good, not kidding). I think I’ll be able to get Saskia to last in the gallery longer than her usual 90 seconds, even.

I did yoga last night in a skort. I’ve never had one before. I’m just sharing that for novelty’s sake. But it’s letting me tell you I’ve been enjoying my friend Lauren’s blog on being a mom in a casual place considering how style matters to her—and I credit her personally with my getting the skort. To feel good about our very selves is a surprisingly radical act, when you think about it.

Lastly, I got my reluctant reader of a nearly fourth grader to read with enthusiasm this weekend. The Horrible Geography series acted as the vehicle. Smart, funny books that engage through facts are sometimes underappreciated in a Harry Potter rules world for elementary school readers or don’t-want-to-readers.

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