One of the very best things to come out of an 18-month long professional n = 1 experiment with social media has been increased awareness of the rich and important topic that is science communication (scicomm, as the cool kids say) and science outreach (sci-reach, as no one in the world says). One of the most impressive scicomm outreach initiatives going right now is SkypeAScientist.

Everyone needs a giant Josh Fessel in their classroom (added by Fighty Squirrel….sorry Josh!)

Started by Sarah McAnulty (@SarahMackAttack), a graduate student and squid biologist extraordinaire in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Connecticut, the purpose of SkypeAScientist is to connect real, live scientists with K-12 students around the world via video chat to talk about what a career in science is like. Scientists connect with the teachers, plan a time and a means of connecting, and go to it!

I’ve done three of these sessions so far, and each time it’s been the highlight of my day. I’ve talked with:

-Ms. Jade Spratling’s first graders in Jefferson, GA

-Ms. Amanda Olson’s 9-12 graders in Janesville, WI

-Ms. Tracy Sukalo’s 11-12 graders in Tinley Park, IL

You think you’re fired up about science? These incredible women have absolutely blown me away with their dedication to their students, their true passion for science and for imparting that love to their students, and their commitment to excellence in science education. More than one of them got visibly choked up talking to me about how much they love their jobs and their students.

It’s easy to see why. These students ask really great questions, and they’re incredibly curious! Some of my favorites have included:

-How many of your ideas have failed?

-How long were you in school? (The looks on their faces when a mud-phud answers this question are priceless.)

-If you could do research on one thing that there’s no funding for right now, what would it be? (#mindblown)

-Are there any medicines that explode?

Look, we’re all worried about the future of science, and for lots of really good reasons. If you’re looking for a way to help ensure that the future is brighter than what you might envision right now, I gotta say that I think this is a REALLY high-yield way to spend an hour or two. A few degrees of course-change early in the voyage can land a person at a totally different destination. I was one of these kids. I didn’t know any scientists growing up, and I didn’t live near any big-time research universities where I could pop in and meet some. I didn’t find science as a conceivable career option until well into college. I got really lucky, but I think we can do better than relying on luck to help young people discover a love of inquiry and discovery.

Convinced yet? Head over to skypeascientist.com to get more info or to sign up!

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2 Comments

Fantastic! Sounds like a blast. And we really want to know are there any medicines that explode? 

What a cool idea!

I was fortunate enough to grow up in Nashville (one of the few natives still here…) and actually went on a couple of field trips to Vanderbilt for various science-related things.  I recall making slime with a Chemistry(?) prof in middle school.  (Didn’t exactly turn me into a scientist, but I still remember it 20 years later, so that has to count for something.)  This is a great way to expand that to kids in locations without a large research presence, as you say.

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