STEM Tuesday’s New Year’s Celebration — Part Two

Partie Deux (Translation…Part Doo.)

Recap: We last saw Mike Hays, our STEM Tuesday New Year’s Post expert, in the barnyard with his trusty sidekick, Dr. Bull Loney,  attempting to clean his boot.

The Look (M. Hays 2020)

“STOP! Stop this recap! What’s with this ‘trusty sidekick’ bit, Hays?” screamed Dr. Bull Loney.

I turned to my bovine friend. “Doesn’t it sound awesome? Our hero and his assistant out in the world solving the great mysteries of science, engineering, technology, and mathematics?”

“No.” said the good doctor flatly. 

“We could be international men, well, man and bovine, of mystery and intrigue. I see a Netflix series coming on.”

“You’re an idiot. Everybody knows I’m the brains of this dynamic duo.”

I sat down on a hay bale and started scraping the cow poo off of my boot with an old piece of barn wood.

“Besides, you got it all wrong. It’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” The tail swished back and forth impatiently. “That’s what STEM stands for.”

“Same thing that I said.”

“What you said makes SETM, not STEM.”

“Same thing.”

“Not at all.” Dr. Loney paused. “Hey, this brings up another problem. Precision.”

“I thought you are supposed to be introducing ‘Cow Poo’ as your STEM Tuesday 2021 theme?”

“I’ll get to that but this is important. Precision is important for not only doing proper STEM work but in presenting the STEM message to others.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“You think so? What good are discovery and innovation if all that discovery and innovation stays in the head of the discoverer/innovator?”

“Not much, I guess.”

“Right. The real value of discovery and innovation, the real value of STEM, is spreading that information to others and putting it into practice.”

“Makes sense. But where’s the precision part fit in?”

The bull lit up like a firework on New Year’s Eve. He was in his element. He was on a roll. 

“Precision, my friend, is the trust part of science. We all know consistency in your data builds trust in the data. However, precision is also important in the messaging side of things too. Without precision in presenting and teaching your information, trust devolves into confusion.”

“So when our message lacks precision, we can create more confusion than trust.”

“Precisely. It’s SETM vs. STEM. You only work to confuse people with SETM rather than the accepted acronym, STEM. Nobody really likes confusion except, perhaps, pigs.”

“Now I get it. That’s kind of like what we do at STEM Tuesday and what the great community of nonfiction kidlit writers does. Spread information through precision in messaging. Getting the best information that we can to the readers.”

“Hays, I think you are coming around. There’s hope for you yet.”

I fought the urge to flick the stuff from the bottom of my boot at him. “Can we  get around to your 2021 STEM Tuesday announcement now?”

“Of course. And you don’t have to be so snappy about it. You done cleaning that shoe off yet? I feel this is an announcement best suited for the sunshine and wide-open space of the pasture.”

We moved through the gate and into the brown grass of the pasture. We stopped on a rise overlooking the corn stubble fields stretched below us. The sunshine felt good and the beauty all around me on this late December day made me forget all about my boot mishap.

“Dr. Bull Loney, this is the perfect spot to make your announcement. But first, tell me why you think “Cow Poo” not only represents 2020 but is also the perfect word for 2021?”

“It’s simple. It’s a circle of life thing.”

“Wait!” I said, looking around at the pastoral setting with images of animated musical animals popping into my head. “You’re not going to start belting out one of those Disney songs, are you?”

“Not a bad idea, but no. Circle of life. The grass grows and the grain grows. We eat the grass and the grain. We absorb the nutrients and then we get rid of the rest in the form of poo. The poo fertilizes the soil and provides nutrients to the grass and the grain. See? Circle of life stuff.”

“What about methane gas?”

“All part of the process. There are positives and negatives to everything under the sun. We can’t ignore the fact that hardly anything in our universe is 100%. That’s why we have statistics.”

“Okay, you’re saying “Cow Poo” needs to be our 2021 word just because it’s fertilizer?”

“After the Cow Poo year of 2020, don’t you think a little fertilizing is needed in our future?”

“You have a point.”


“Okay Dr., make the announcement.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, I propose ‘Cow Poo 2021’ as the STEM Tuesday theme for the New Year. Keep the STEM faith as we navigate these tough and difficult times. We wish you the best and can’t wait to see what you’ll create fueled by your own means of fertilizer. Happy New Year from the MUF family and the STEM Tuesday team!”

As the wisdom of Dr. Bull Loney sunk in, I looked around at the beauty of nature surrounding me. With the challenges we face in 2021, a little fertilizer in our future is not a bad thing at all. We need it for our creative life. We need it for our discoveries. We need it for our innovation. We need it to make our world just a little bit better today than it was yesterday.

I only suggest we pay attention to what’s under our feet so we don’t accidentally step in something we don’t have to scrape off our boots. Also, I recommend checking out some books on poop (including a few titles below from STEM Tuesday contributors). It’s fascinating stuff! 

Who Gives A Poop? Surprising Science From One End To The Other by Heather L. Montgomery (2020)

Building With Poop by Jennifer Swanson (2018)


Happy New Year! May your life be fertile and productive in 2021.


Anya Adora [CC BY 4.0 (]

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101,  are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

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