Tuesday, July 7, 2009

2009 - The Year of Science

Explore, Empower, Engage… That is the by-line for the international Year of Science. It is already July, meaning the year is half over. But, there is still half a year left. So, the optimist in me says there is a lot left to be gained.

What does the International Year of Science mean for you? Well, it means that a whole lot of scientific groups and societies are working right now to make their science more accessible. If science has always seemed like some mysterious endeavor that takes place in dark museum basements and smoke-filled laboratories, this is your year. As their press release states, the goal of the Year of Science 2009 (a.k.a. YOS 2009 – of course, we need an acronym for it to be any sort of official endeavor!) is to engage the public in science by showcasing how science works, who scientists are, and why science matters in our communities and everyday lives. Entire states, including California, are embracing YOS 2009 through proclamations and special collaborative activities. And, universities, scientific societies, K-12 schools, science centers and museums, federal agencies, corporations and other non-profits have created a grassroots network dedicated to celebrating YOS 2009.

A special web site (www.yearofscience2009.org) has been created help the general public learn more about this year –long national event. Every month throughout the year, the site will feature a new scientific theme, in which organizational leaders in that discipline share the excitement of their science. The web site also provides engaging resources and highlights FREE events connected to the monthly theme such as science cafes, festivals, open houses, blogs, podcasts, and school visits by scientists to share their work.

Two of my personal favorites within this new and pretty awesome collection of resources are the Why Science Is Important site (http://whyscience.co.uk/), which features statements, videos, movies and personal reflections from scientists and non-scientists alike, and the Understanding Science site (http://understandingscience.com), which explains how science really works, what it is, and what it hopes to achieve. The latter is a really great resource for teachers and families.

I want to share something else I learned from this website that really touched me. A lot of people out there say; “I am just not good at science.” What this can mean, especially when it comes from our kids, is “I just have not found the part of science that interests me.” Classroom science may be challenging. But, as in all walks of life, what one learns in the classroom is only part of being a scientist. Scientific research involves a lot of creative thinking, problem-solving, logic, and communication skills – and those aren’t always tapped in the classroom. I am going to freely admit that the class I disliked the very most my freshman year of college was my Biology class. And the class I did the worst in (and took a couple of times over) was Physics. Lucky for me, science is also an incredibly diverse suite of fields ranging from astronomy to zoology, and every letter of the alphabet in between. I found a career that blended my interests, played to my personal strengths, and ironically includes biology and physics. But, you don’t have to choose a career in science to enjoy it. Science really is for everyone, at some level.

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