Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The newest crop of Earth Scientists

I had the opportunity to be a substitute teacher yesterday for a local 5th grade class. While there we did the usual elementary school daily events: math, writing, recess, reading and spelling. Unfortunately I was not to be the science teacher, but I quickly made the math class into an hour filled data collecting exercise and study of probability.  It was at lunch when I was looking at the stuff all around the room and noticed a wall full of astronomical posters. One poster highlighted variable stars. I thought that was an unlikely topic for a 5th grader to study. I asked the other teacher about the choice of variable stars. I wasn't expecting her answer. The girl who studied variable stars choose the topic because the picture in the book showed a pink star.

I am sorry to say my first reaction was very guy-like with a laugh (to the teacher not the student!). But, I quickly started wondering. Do we create our elementary science posters/text/web pages etc. To attract both genders? I don't know? I think that the newest images coming from the Hubble are beautiful works of art. I am reminded of Jodie Foster in Contact saying that they should have sent a poet. But, I am a guy. What do these images look like to 5th grade girls? And what do you think about creating more pink stars to find the next Vera Rubin, Jill Tarter or Annie Cannon.

1 comment:

Earthling said...

I would never have been the type of girl to pick something to study because it was pink (green, maybe...). Just the same, whatever it is that encourages a girl to study science works for me! I'm also pretty impressed by the little girl who continued (post-color) to study the variable stars. It also strikes me that if we could distribute more high-quality images (Hubble or otherwise), we'd have more response than we get from standard classroom posters.