It is time to sign up for skypeascientist. This is a program connecting scientists with classrooms. It gives students and teachers a chance to talk to real living scientists and scientists a chance to chat with students. This fall I met with a class in England and hope to be matched again.
If you are curious how this works here are some thoughts on my experience:
I was nervous. It might seem weird since I’ve taught many classes and have even given class on science communication but I assure you for me it is not. First, I’m almost always nervous before I start talking to a group of people so this was no different. But I was especially nervous to talk to a group of kids since that was new. Even though I speak to an eight-year old almost every single day, I wasn’t quite sure what it would be like to chat with a group of 10-11 year olds. It turned out it was really fun. They asked interesting questions and were really engaged.
I was happy to provide an example of a scientist that isn’t what the stereotypical view often is. Pretty much is every ecologist I know has this chance! I think it is important that scientists are seen as people. For the group I had, one of the main goals was to give a face to science. Although there were a few more science-oriented/fact based questions, much of what they wanted to know was about what it is like to be a scientist and how you become one.
On that note, be prepared to answer what your favourite organism/subject when you were a kid/part of your work/etc is. I got quite a few of these kinds of questions (pollinator, flower, plant, part of studying pollination, area of Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) when I was at school). I had forgotten what it was like to define yourself by your favourites but this took me back and it was fun to force myself to choose my favourites.
The students were also interested in how difficult it was to be a scientist. I promised them that you don’t need to be a genius to be a scientist but didn’t shy away from talking about some of the difficulties too.
I use skype often for meetings but skyping a big group is a different thing. It was really helpful that the teacher sat by the computer and rephrased the students’ questions to me since I couldn’t catch any of them coming from the class.
If there is some good #scicomm out there on your topic, this is a great time to find it and share. YouTube is your friend here. I think it really helped that I could send some things that the teachers showed the class before we talked. It was also great to have a list of questions from the class for me to look at to give me an idea of what they were thinking about and interested in.
If you are looking for a feel good experience and an opportunity to share your science with some kids, skypeascientist is a really good and low-key way to do that. It wasn’t much of a commitment and was really rewarding. They’ll be matching classrooms and scientists in January so sign up now. And if you are a teacher or know one, this is a great way to connect with scientists! We want to talk to you and your students.