Posts Tagged Common Core & NGSS

STEM Tuesday — Diversity in STEM– Interview with Ella Schwartz

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Ella Schwartz, author of STOLEN SCIENCE: Thirteen Untold Stories of Scientists and Inventors Almost Written out of History.  

Mary Kay Carson: Tell us a bit about your book Stolen Science.

Ella Schwartz: Stolen Science is the story of thirteen scientists and inventors who performed ground breaking work but did not get the credit they deserved. I know first-hand just how hard it is for women to be successful in the field. We’ve made great strides in recent years, but time and again women and marginalized groups have had to claw their way to success in the sciences, only to have their discoveries stolen from them – and that’s not fair! I set out to write Stolen Science to finally give credit where credit is due!

MKC: Why did you choose to write the book? 

Ella: Picture a scientist in your head. Chances are, that scientist is white, male, and often dead. As a woman with a background in science and engineering, I very rarely got to see someone who looked like me represented in my field. That’s what I set out to fix when I began writing Stolen Science. I feel deeply that children today need to see diversity represented in the sciences. Young girls, children of color, and immigrants must be inspired by example to pursue STEM fields. I set out to write Stolen Science with that goal in mind.

MKC: Stolen Science features lesser-known individuals, many who lived in the 1800s. How did you learn about them?

Ella: When I began researching this book, I wasn’t sure what I’d find. I knew there was probably plenty of scientists who had performed brilliant work that never got the credit they deserved, but I never expected just how many stories I’d uncover! Some of the stories from the 1800s were tricky to research, but thankfully these stories are beginning to come to light. For example, Mary Anning is one of the scientists I feature in the book. I’m pleased to see a lot of recent publications on this fierce and brave scientist.

MKC: It sounds like you spent some quality time in research archives and libraries. Do you have a favorite discovery you’d like to share?

Ella Schwartz writes fiction and nonfiction books for young readers. She is always asking questions and trying to learn new things. The books she writes are for kids who are just as curious as she is. Find out more about her and her books at www.ellasbooks.com.

Ella: The research for this book was, at times, intense! One of my favorite stories in the book is on Jo Anderson, an enslaved man who invented the mechanical reaper that became the backbone of the industrial revolution. There hasn’t been a lot of research on Jo Anderson so telling his story required me to dig deep into research. I knew this was a story that deserved to be told and I was honored to tell it. But I also knew this was a big responsibility. I had to get the story right. I’m very grateful to the staff at the Wisconsin Historical Society for sharing original letters and documents on Jo Anderson that helped me form the true story of this incredible man.

MKC: Why do you choose to write STEM books? Is it your background?

Ella: I do have a STEM background! I received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering and have had a twenty+ year career in cybersecurity. When I’m not writing, I work as a cybersecurity professional on federal government initiatives. I started writing STEM books because a writing mentor once told me “write what you know.” That seemed to make sense at the time. But I kept on writing STEM books because I truly feel STEM must be open for everyone. It doesn’t matter what your gender, color, background, or religion is. STEM is for you.

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Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado ScientistAlexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday — Diversity in STEM– Writing Tips & Resources

 

Diversity.

It’s needed everywhere and, in particular, it’s needed across the board in the STEM fields.

This month’s STEM Tuesday Writing Tips & Resource post is short and sweet. 

We need diverse talents and viewpoints to solve our problems. We need the collective brainpower. A toolbox limited to a single hammer can pound away but limits what can be accomplished. A variety of tools can handle so much more. It has unlimited potential.

 

2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM Mentoring honorees. National Science Foundation, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Diversity has always played a role in STEM. We’ve been ingrained by media, myth, and selective memory to think of STEM as white and male by default. That is an error. A mistake of perception that we must fight through in order to discover the truth is much richer than the default myth. 

Throughout history, there are examples of how important diverse thought has been in the STEM fields. Just use this month’s STEM Tuesday — Diversity in STEM — Book List as a great jumping-off point. Pick a book. Any book. Dive in.

(Me? I’m going to start with, What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem was one of my sports idols when I was a kid and his “second” career as an author takes his idol status to astronomical levels.

Creativity, innovation, and problem-solving are not unique to gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Anyone can have ideas.

Anyone can come up with solutions.

Anyone can contribute their uniqueness in their unique way.

They just need a place at the table. Or lab bench. Or board room. Or design meeting. Or…

 

1947 Nobel Prize winners Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori and Carl Ferdinand Cori. Smithsonian Institution from United States, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiast, 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  www.coachhays.com 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 and Instagram at @mikehays64.

 


The O.O.L.F Files

This month’s version of the O.O.L.F.(Out of Left Field) Files highlights resources toward training a diverse workforce for the STEM fields. 

Higher Education

The college I work at is doing good work when it comes to developing a more diverse STEM field. Here are a couple of the programs at Kansas State University.

PEW Research Report 2021

The State of STEM Education

An interesting 2020 paper from the International Journal of STEM Education

EiE’s list of organizations working to promote Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) excellence in STEM

An analysis of current STEM workforce and education data from Thomas Insights

Why STEM Diversity Matters from Wired

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for one of the most powerful molecular discoveries ever, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, or CRISPR for short. CRISPR vaulted gene-editing technologies into high gear.

 


STEM Tuesday — Diversity in STEM– In the Classroom


I read the following two books from our monthly booklist:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgInspiring African-American Inventors: 9 Extraordinary Lives
by Jeff C.Young

This book follows the lives and achievements of nine African-American inventors. These write-ups were more in depth than those in the other collections I read. There were lots of links to resources provided in the book; however, it seemed like many of them are no longer active.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWhat Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld,
illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford

This book is a combination of fiction and nonfiction. While it gives rather brief write-ups for the inventors mentioned, it does a nice job of addressing why diversity in STEM is important.

I also read these two books:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgUnsung Heroes of Technology
by Todd Kortemeier

This book gives an overview of 12 scientists, mathematicians, and/or inventors whose contributions to STEM have often been overlooked. The majority of the people highlighted in this book are women and/or African-Americans.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgStephen Hawking: Master of the Cosmos
by Robert Sneddon

This graphic novel follows the life and scientific contributions of Stephen Hawking. While still in college, Hawking was diagnosed with a disease that confined him to a wheelchair for much of his life. Hawking contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe and was able to communicate many of these ideas to average readers.

I felt a strong connection to this month’s theme. My years studying and working in engineering had me facing a lack of diversity in STEM on a very personal level. In college, I met the first woman to graduate from my alma mater. In school and while working, I was the only woman in a room full of men on many an occasion. Our family is full of neurodivergents and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Recently, I went through training to become a counselor for BSA’s Citizenship in Society merit badge.

Here are some activities to consider when tying this month’s books to the classroom.

Explore Identities

This month’s theme is “Diversity in STEM.” But what is diversity? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as, “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.” In terms of people, what are the differing elements?

Most often, diversity in STEM (or any other organization/discipline) focuses primarily on race, gender, and sometime sexuality. But there is so much more to it than that. If we start looking at what makes up a person’s identity, the possible factors seem almost limitless. (There’s an interesting, short write-up about identity in Sydney University’s 2019 Anthology here: https://www.usydanthology.com/2019/04/12/lodens-wheel-of-diversity.)

Have students define some aspects of their own identities.
(For help in defining some of these, there’s a great write-up from Appalachian State here: https://cae.appstate.edu/sites/cae.appstate.edu/files/big-8-identities.pdf)

Ability:
Race:
Ethnicity:
Gender:
Religion:

If you want to include even more aspects of identity in this exercise, go ahead. When we factor in all the different things that make up who we are and compare those with others, we find out we are much more alike than we might assume upon first glance.

Once students have defined some parts of their own identities, have them find a scientist/inventor/mathematician highlighted in this month’s reading (or in one of the links below) who has an identity that matches them. Then have them read about someone who seems very different.

Have a discussion or have students write their thoughts on the following:
– How does it make them feel to learn about amazing achievements by someone who shares similar identities with them?
– Do they feel any differently about those whose identities are very different from their own?
– Why do they think it’s important to have diversity in STEM?

Explore How Progress in STEM Works

In What Color is My World?, Mr. Mital talks about scientific knowledge as being handed from person to person like a bucket brigade.

Set up your own bucket brigade. Line students up around the room. Then have them pass something from person to person – it doesn’t have to be a bucket. In fact, a book might be more appropriate, since STEM is all about passing knowledge and ideas from person to person.

Once you’ve had the students pass the scientific knowledge (book, bucket, whatever) successfully down the line, take a few people out of the line. All the other students should stay in their positions – they should not move closer together to fill the gaps.

Have them pass the scientific knowledge along the line again. What happens when it gets to the gaps in the line? Think about/discuss how this relates to diversity in STEM.

If you don’t have enough people to conduct this activity, try creating a domino train/fall (http://www.domino-play.com/TopplingBasic.htm). Remove a few dominoes from different locations to see how that changes things.

Discover More

Since a lot of the links given in the books I read didn’t work, I decided to dig up a few more. Here are some links to a variety of people who made inspiring contributions in STEM fields but are either from underrepresented communities and/or their contributions are largely unsung. You will find many of the people covered in the books among those listed on the web sites.

This article was written in relation to What Color is My World?: https://invention.si.edu/lost-histories-african-american-inventors

Native American Scientists and Engineers: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/native-american-scientists-engineers

12 Disabled Scientists Who Made the World a Better Place: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/87068/12-disabled-scientists-who-made-world-better-place

Hispanic Scientists and Engineers: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/hispanic-scientists-engineers

Inspiring Scientists and Engineers to Know – Asian American Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/aanhip-scientists

6 Important LGBTQ Scientists Who Left a Mark on STEM Fields: https://www.osc.org/important-lgbtq-scientists-who-left-a-mark-on-stem-fields

LGBTQ+ scientists in history: https://www.asbmb.org/asbmb-today/people/061821/lgbtq-scientists-through-history

Unsung innovators of color: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/these-unsung-american-inventors-changed-the-world/ss-AAMy3V3

10 Black Inventors Who Changed the World: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/86923/11-african-american-inventors-who-changed-world

NASA’s Innovators and Unsung Heroes: https://www.nasa.gov/50th/50th_magazine/unsungHeroes.html


Author Janet Slingerland Janet Slingerland has written more than 20 books for children. To find out more about Janet and her books, check out her website – – or visit her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.