Gain some great resources and motivation for sparking your child’s interest (at any age) in science. An experienced and passionate science educator and writer for the National Science Teacher’s Association, Denise Wright, provides encouragement and ways to get started.
Find Denise on Twitter: @DenisecWright
E-mail Denise: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Steve: 00:33 Tapping a spark for science. We’re joined by Denise Wright on our podcast today. She’s an experienced science educator and she’s a writer for the national science teachers association. Denise has a strong passion for engaging students in the excitement of science learning and I was anxious to have her share some of her thinking with parents. She recorded another podcast for me with teachers and if you find this intriguing, parents, you might want to jump back and listen to the one she recorded for teachers as well. So welcome, Denise.
Denise: 01:11 I thank you for having me here today. I’m very honored to be here and talk about how to involve parents in STEM education. Thank you.
Steve: 01:19 Denise, will you just start a little bit about your personal discovery of your passion for science and how it plays out in your life today?
Denise: 01:28 Sure. Yeah. Ever since I was a kid, I, you know, completely fell in love with science. I remember Mom and Dad taking me to Kennedy space center and, you know, seeing the awe of all the displays there and having those experiences. I had some great science teachers through the years that really caused me to have a passion for science. I’ve been to a couple of NASA launches where I’ve actually seen a Delta heavy launch off the pad about a mile and a half away from the launch pad nd that has those have been incredible experiences. And being underneath a huge 61 inch reflecting telescope at the University of Arizona for all-nighter, all of those things have created an extreme passion for me in science education for sure. So definitely having those experiences.
Steve: 02:15 What would you identify are, are the benefits and the values that students can gain from their parents sparking the child’s interest in science?
Denise: 02:29 I think you’re going to build strong relationships and family relationships and you could build a lot of memories based upon science and teaching your children at home. You know, hopefully, as parents, you’re going to create that lifelong learner out of your children, you’re going to spark their curiosity and interest because there’s science and everything, there’s science and at home all the time. And also if it’s important to you as a parent, it’s going to important to your children and there are so many ways to incorporate some of those science ideas.
Steve: 03:04 I was waiting to hear your words of science is everywhere. I was sure that was coming.
Denise: 03:13 That was coming. Of course, it is!
Steve: 03:14 I remember the first time that I was working with a high school family and consumer science teacher who was describing to me why students should get some science credit for her home economics class and it was really clear. It didn’t take her very long to point to all the different science pieces that emerged just from mixing some ingredients together to bake something.
Denise: 03:46 Right. And my daughter was taking AP environmental science, and one of her assignments was to create a vegan dish, you know, from the environment. So she made vegan pancakes and, you know, the measurement and the ingredients, and all of those are science, you know, there’s chemistry involved in it when you think about it. When you’re using yeast to get something arise in the oven, that’s science. So it’s everywhere like we said.
Steve: 04:15 I’m wondering if you might give us a couple of tips or strategies for parents to consider – just ways they might begin in sparking this interest in science.
Denise: 04:29 Sure. There are just so many easy ways to do it at home. Obviously, you just mentioned cooking. There’s gardening, you know, your herb garden, you’re growing plants. You can actually even download a free mobile app called iNaturalist or PlantSnap. It actually takes up – you use your camera and you can take a photo and you can identify any plant. So if your student or your child asks, you know, “what plant is this?” If you use this mobile app, you can identify any plant that’s out there. So really getting students and children to be interested in the world around them. It works through artificial intelligence. It actually has a database of everything, and it’s just an amazing mobile app that I’ve used with students. The night sky, I’m a big lover of the Night Sky, I volunteer for NASA.
Denise: 05:20 So even getting students or your own children to look up at the night sky at the moon, there’s just so much to learn being outside. Back in December, we had the conjunction where we had Jupiter and Saturn almost like on top of each other, so being able to go outside and just look up is a great way to spark that interest as well. There are just so many different things you could do. Go to local museums – after COVID, obviously, when that passes. Local museums and science centers, and you could do things as easy as, right now, there’s an activity with NASA where you – we’re getting ready to launch the first drone on Mars called Ingenuity, where students can make a helicopter model out of paper at home and actually drop it from a ladder or drop it from the first floor to the second floor. Dollar tree, if you go by dollar tree, there is just so many toys and things that you can take apart and try to figure out how they work. So lots of science to be had at home and exciting ideas to influence your children and spark that curiosity, for sure.
Steve: 06:29 Very cool. Very cool. Your discussion of that app was making me laugh because my wife found an insect in our daughter’s apartment that she couldn’t identify and has taken pictures of it. And now she’s engaged with students at a university who are studying the pictures and working on finding out what the insect is.
Denise: 06:59 Well, you know, I believe, I bet if you look on the mobile app store, there’s an app for that. You know, it’s the truth. Artificial intelligence is completely amazing. It’s one of my interests right now. I do believe in teaching AI to students, I think it’s really important because, you know, I have an Alexa right here. She reminds me of when my meetings are every day and went to attend my meetings. When you go shopping online there’s recommenders that they know what you like to shop forl so they’ll recommend products to you. And I’m sure that there’s a database of insects out there, and there’s probably a mobile app.
Steve: 07:36 They’ve actually written back and asked if we can capture one and ship it off to them. So there’s pretty deep science engagement with a real purposeful outcome here. You’ve mentioned several possibilities there. Are there a couple of resources that you might have parents put first on their list for exploration?
Denise: 08:01 I would definitely use the free mobile apps, for sure. Any Android or iPhone device, you can download on naturalist, which is a free mobile app. If you go to citizen science, or actually science starter.org, April is citizen science month. Citizen science is actually taking you and me and coming all the way from adults to children to get them to participate in science and real-world projects because we know that there’s so much data out there that needs to be collected, and there are not enough scientists to do it. So sciencestarter.org actually has over 3000 projects on there that common everyday people can participate in to help scientists collect this data. Another one is globe at night. We’re concerned about our night skies and light pollution. And you can go outside and just take readings in your local area of what the night sky looks like. Because some of those stars and great celestial objects are being canceled out by light pollution. So definitely check out sciencestarter.org. You’ll learn about all these different citizen science projects, and they’re quite easy to do. They’re pretty intuitive and it’s all free. So that would be a suggestion.
Steve: 09:26 Terrific. Sounds like great things to be exploring. Denise, thank you so much. I’m wondering if you’d just share with parents, what might be the easiest way for them to check in with you if they want to explore something that you’ve mentioned further?
Denise: 09:43 Sure. I’m on Twitter. So you can follow me at Twitter @DenisecWright. You can also send me a personal email at email@example.com and those are the ways that you can reach out to me and I would love to hear from you.
Steve: 10:07 Terrific. Thank you so much. Your passion was caught on the podcast and I’m sure it’ll lead parents to checking out new possibilities. Really appreciate you being with us.
Denise: 10:21 Thank you. It’s been an honor to be here.
Steve [Outro]: 10:24 Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.