VIDEO: Science Resources for Children panel, #SkepchickCon

This panel is packed with awesome suggestions for science books, websites, videos, and more that you don’t need to be a parent to enjoy. Unfortunately, there was a glitch with the recording, so it starts a bit late, although I don’t think the specific resources discussion had started yet.

You might want to have a document open where you can copy and paste the resources from the transcription. There are tons.

Other SkepchickCon videos and transcriptions we’ve posted so far:

Evolutionary Psychology
The Amazing Skepchick Cure-All
Climate Change & Superstorms
The Science and Art of Bioluminescence
Philosophy of the Golden Compass
Fight the Trolls

Science Resources for Children panel video

Panelists L-R: Brandy Snyder, Windy Bowlsby, Nicole Gugliucci, Matt Lowry

Recorded by David McConnell
Transcribed by David Inwood
Titles by Jason Thibeault, with designs based on the work of Donna Mugavero.

Science Resources for Children panel transcription

[Video starts late.]  

Matt Lowry: It’s kind of odd. I’m having flashbacks. Oh! You have your little science fair. But it really is that same sort of thing. You have these public resources. You’ve got the library. You’ve got the science fair. Now you’ve got the internet, and so on. And science museums too! They do this wonderful thing in Chicago every Tuesday in the summertime here; it’s free admission to the science museums.

Wow! How cool is that? If you’re a parent, totally take advantage of that if you’ve got the opportunity. You’ve got all these amazing resources. They’re just right there, and it’s free. Just go play, and learn with them.

Brandy Snyder: And Como Zoo is, you know, cheap or free. I always try to give a small donation every time I go, because I like them a lot, and I want to support them. It’s a space for a kid to walk around and look at the animals, and get an idea of animal behavior. Like I said, I’m far more on the biology side of things than I am on the more mathy-based stuff.

Windy Bowlsby: Yeah. Okay, so we’re just sort of listing resources, but do you have any on the topic you want to cover?

ML: I think one thing’s really important. You talk about resources, specifically facts and science projects. But I think it’s really also important to try to get to get kids and parents to understand science as a methodology. It kind of goes back to the learning how to learn thing. What is it that distinguishes science from other kinds of thought, and so on.

I’ll share one of the things I do. I like to say to people, “Have you ever gone to a birthday party or a family gathering, and you’ve got crazy old Uncle Harry there. He’s the guy that’s doing all the goofy stuff. He walks up to somebody and says, ‘Hey kid, I found a quarter in your ear.’ He’s doing all the crazy hand tricks.”

And usually people say, “Yeah, I know somebody like that.” And the little kids are always asking “How do you do the trick?” Harry says, “It’s magic.” He’s a good magician. He’s not going to explain it; he’s going to string the kids along. So, I say, “Suppose you see a really cleverly done card trick. And you want to know how it’s done. Well, kids, what do you do if you want to figure out how it’s done? If you’re really hardcore about figuring this out because Harry’s not going to tell you. What do you do? What’s step one?”

Nicole Gugliucci: Try it!

ML: Before you try it, don’t you have to have some idea of what it is? So then, you’ve got to research. That’s where you say, “Go to the library, look up a book on card tricks. Or go to Google. Then you get an idea, and then you try it. So you get your own deck of cards, and you try it. And depending on how successful or not you are, you say, ‘Well, maybe that’s it or not. Maybe I have to go back and read some more, then come back and try it again.’ You keep running through it, and eventually maybe if you’re persistent and lucky, you get it.”

I tell her, “That’s science! That’s the methodology of science, right there. That’s basically the process. It’s an investigative process that you go through in a rigorous manner, and you’re trying to address some question, except instead of figuring out the tricks that Uncle Harry did, it’s the tricks that nature plays on us all the time.’“ I like to use that analogy because that’s something everybody can relate to. It’s the same kind of investigative model.

NG: And in addition to the method of science, a big thing that I like to do when doing science with kids in an involved setting is to show them that they can be scientists too. By doing that process, by thinking that way, and by going through those methods, they’re acting as a scientist. So showing them that science is accessible, and is for everyone, and even if you don’t grow up to be a scientist, you’re interested in something completely different, it’s still a part of your life. That scientific thinking is still a part of your life.

It’s going to be important. Maybe when they’re in 3rd grade, they don’t care about when they’re going to be voters, but this is what I think about when I’m working with 3rd graders is one day they’re going to be voting on these issues. So let me show them that scientists aren’t this other population. They’re people. Show them that science itself isn’t scary. That’s a big part of the message that I try to get across.

WB: I saw some hands. Do you want to share something?

Audience 1: I specifically have a question. I like what Brandy what saying earlier about our… I fell through cracks in school. I didn’t get a lot of exposure to the sciences at all. It was pretty much babied[?] up until my senior year. My question is, how does somebody as an adult who wants to basically start from the ground up learn the [methodology], the actual [inaudible] of using scientific process as well as just the broad range of the sciences to build their base? What’s a good starting point, to get you really excited? To get you to just want a turn [?].

ML: I would recommend a couple of books. These are books that inspired me when I was younger. I mentioned Cosmos already. Cosmos was written in the late seventies, but it’s an excellent book. Carl Sagan was an amazing writer.

WB: I’ve got one of those huge coffee table versions.

ML: Yeah, I would recommend that. Cosmos is a great book for the bam! The wonder, the awesomeness of the science. Another good book that Carl Sagan wrote on the lines of the methodology and the importance to society is The Demon-Haunted World. Science as a Candle in the Dark. Those are both excellent books to get anybody interested, and they will get you into all kinds of other stuff. That’s how I got into skepticism and critical thinking was because I … yep.

NG: Science blogs as well. There are a lot of science bloggers out there who are picking up where science journalists are getting fired left and right.

WB: Can you name a specific person?

ML: Gosh, there are so many of them.

NG: Which aggregator is the current …?

ML: There is well,

NG: Is Side Walks still . . . ?

ML: I don’t know if Side Walks is still around.

NG: Scientific American, for example.

ML: Yeah. Scientific American blog! That’s great!

NG: Because a lot of the bloggers, some come from the journalism aspect, some come from a scientific background. And together, they’re able to explain what’s going on in the current research, and how it’s being done. So there is amazing science journalism to be found in the blogs.

BS: I like Discovery News

ML: I was going to mention that, yeah.

BS: Because they’ve got really strange things. Like, oh my god! They just found a dinosaur bone, and it’s got feather imprints on it? How weird is that? It’s written very accessibly, which I like, and they’re usually fairly short articles. I’m reading these in between changing the baby and making dinner.

Audience 2: What’s that called again?

BS: Just the Discovery News blog.

NG: I read it for the Space section. There’s an Animal section, a Human section.

Audience 3: I’d like to throw out the How Things Work book from the eighties. A lot of this, I understand it, but I have to really think about it to explain it to my kid.

NG: You want something that explains it at a higher level that you can then bring it down to.

ML: Yeah, How Things Work is good.

Audience 3: It’s such a part of my life to have to explain in plain words. I understand what it does, but . . .

WB: Jill?

Audience 4: There is Nerdfighteria, which is John Green and Hank Green. The Vlog Brothers. And they contribute with Crash Course, and they do multiple courses right now like Crash Course Chemistry. The Vlog Brothers are a YouTube channel, and they have a community that they’ve created called Nerdfighteria. The whole point is to reduce “world suck.”

NG: Increase the awesome, decrease the suck.

WB: Nerd Fighters?

[They briefly discuss the spelling of the channel’s name]  

Audience 4: They have a channel called Crash Course, in which each of the brothers has done multiple shows. They have a literary show that they did, where he did US literature. And he does US history, world history, there’s biology class. And he does basic biology. As a grown-up, what biology should you know?

And he also goes into some deeper, more complex concepts like the math, psychometry, chemistry, history, and things like that. And then they also have Sideshow, where he does scientific news once a week, where he’s like, “This week in science, they’re doing this really cool thing. You should follow this link!”

WB: Have you been watching the science stuff that has been going down? They found a cure for diabetes, they think! There’s some other thing about an implant to help blind people see.

BS: They injected HIV into a girl and cured her cancer.

WB: The stars are aligning or something! There’s some cosmic radiation, and all of a sudden, the science is, “Boom!”

Audience 4: Those are really cool resources, and they’re really good about suggesting other things. Usually, once a day, they say, “This guy also blogs about science, if want to watch him!” And sometimes his videos can be easy. I’ll turn them on while cleaning, and watch Sideshow or six episodes of Crash Course and clean my apartment.

WB: Let’s not forget Myth Busters too.

ML: Oh yeah. Myth Busters is really good.

BS: I am a big fan of getting my science via documentary. On the lighter, more funny side, Myth Busters, or at the more serious, BBC nature specials. The couple I wanted to mention were Bill Nye the Science Guy, because all the scientific principles are still the same. I watched them all with my infant, and she was massively entertained.

There is the old Mr. Wizard series, which your library most likely has for the asking, or the inter-library loan, which I want to pimp a lot because it’s awesome, and you should use it. And your libraries will be incredibly impressed with you if you ask. Also, like you said, the science stuff on Facebook, if you don’t mind censoring a little bit for your children. But, the “I Fucking Love this Planet” group, and “I Fucking Love Science.”

Audience 5: They actually have “I Really Love Science.” It’s like a G version of “I Fucking Love Science.”

ML: That’s good.

BS: But they’ve got the awesome science discoveries. This week in science: Cure for diabetes! Cure for cancer! What the hell?

NG: Can I add Google+ as well. I know a lot of people are like, “There’s nothing on Google+!” Wrong! There is so much science on Google+. Science Sunday, especially on Sunday. Just, OMG. So much good stuff.

ML: Oh, podcasts. Radio Lab.

WB: Oh my god! I love Radio Lab!

ML: Radio Lab is the bomb! It is so awesome! Kids have the phones and the ear buds.

[Laughter and cross-talk]  

WB: There’s Science Friday.

ML: Yeah, Science Friday, and you’ve got Radio Lab, and you’ve got all these science-oriented podcasts. The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. There’s all this really good [inaudible]

NG: Astronomycast

BS: If there’s anyone in town, it’s called It’s a local podcast. I met the guy at the Indianapolis Institute of Arts of all places. They were interviewing children for their podcast. It’s specifically for slightly older elementary school children, but for the young crowd. Sometimes getting science accessible for small kids is a little harder if you don’t want to be holding up the plushies and saying, “Now, the T-Rex and the Brontosaurus . . .”


ML: But plushies are cool!

WB: Madame TARDIS?

Audience 6: Thank you. Bill Nye now actually has an app. I just downloaded it two weeks ago.

ML: Must have.

Audience 6: Then, you were asking about science and direction. There’s the series of Basher books. Scholastic has them. They are fantastic! You can get them out on Amazon. They’ve done the periodic table, chemistry, the oceans, dinosaurs. They’re accessible to probably 3rd grade up for a precocious reader, but we find ourselves as adults reading them kinda in the bathroom, going, “Hey! I forgot all about that!”

They’re wonderful! And really reasonably priced. Just to your comment, Matt, half the fun with kids is letting them fail.

ML: Yes! Yes! Definitely.

Audience 6: Asking them, “What do you think is going to happen,” because the things you think they think are going to happen aren’t often at all what they say. And just letting it happen, then find out, “Well, why?”

ML: That’s an extremely important point, and I think one of the problems that I have seen as a professional public educator is in many ways, there’s a reluctance among some of my colleagues to allow kids to fail.

NG: The NGSS isn’t going to give them a choice.

WB: They’re supposed to be successful, and they must know how to do this. Well, we all agree you learn when you screw up.

ML: Yep, but if you’re not allowed to screw up… But Nicole mentioned something called the NGSS. So for those of you that don’t know what the NGSS stands for, it’s Next Generation Science Standards. This is a huge deal, folks. If you have not read about the Next Generation Science Standards, you should. Just Google it. they’ve got a great website.

They just came out with these standards recently. Something you need to understand about NGSS. It’s not a federal program. This is not coming from the federal government. This is actually something that was put together by private organizations like the Carnegie Foundation, and states that chose to get involved in it. So this is actually coming from the states.

A majority of states in the country have already signed on to this. They’re going to accept it, and they’re going to do this stuff. One of the things that’s very specific in these standards is exactly the point that you just made. You need to set up situations where the kids can fail, and learn from the failure to do it better next time. That’s exactly what should be done!

NG: It’s beyond inquiry now. It’s real science and engineering practices every day in the classroom.

Audience 7: A note on the Bill Nye app, I believe episodes are actually directly available through the app as well, not just videos [inaudible].

Audience 8: There are several out, if you just google “Bill Nye Episodes,” there are several online on a separate website.

WB: I just bought a book. She’s too young yet. I was just prepping.

BS: I know. Half of the reason I had a kid was because I could buy kid’s books.

WB: 50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kid Do. Which I am so looking forward to.

ML: There’s the dangerous book for boys, the dangerous book for girls. It makes me wonder why they have two separate books.

NG: I know. That’s a whole other panel there.

WB: 50 Dangerous Things for Girls. What, like dealing with the sexism in society?


ML: Like wondering why there’s a separate book for me, Mommy?

WB: “Why do I need a separate book Mommy? Do I need to do something?” “Yeah, it’s hard. Shut up.”

BS: I work with reptiles in an educational fashion, and I’ve got to say, the boys are way more squeamish about coming out to touch the snakes. They’re like, “Aaaah!” and the girls are like, “Oh! That is so cool!”

Audience 9: Quickly, two resources. Free Range Kids [inaudible]

BS: Yes.

WB: I was just reading an article that was talking about how we don’t let our kids be bored. So I actually considered it a win when every once in a while my child says, “I’m bored.” “Well then, go do something. What are you going to do about it?”
ML: Go outside.

Audience 9: Old-fashioned then [?]. If your kid is interested in something, and you don’t know what to do, your library has a reference desk. Go ask the reference librarian. They know what’s in the collection. They can point you at it.

ML: Yes, they’re the meat version of Google.

Audience 10: This is a resource. You were talking about NASA. If you go to Zooniverse—I do it with my students—and it’s great for letting them hash out data. A lot of that NASA stuff is tied directly to that site.

NG: I work for a project called Cosmo Quest, which does astronomy citizen science with NASA. That’s what we’re building as well, with teacher resources and lesson plans. All that kind of stuff.

WB: Is there anything else?

ML: Well, we kind of get down about this stuff, mixing politics with science, but I’m actually terribly excited and optimistic because there are so many more resources available now compared to when I was a kid. It’s just huge. I got really interested in science because I would go to the public library and read books. There was Popular Science magazine, and all that kind of stuff. But now there’s so much more stuff, and it’s so much more easily accessible. If you can access a computer, you can get a hold of most of this stuff.

I would just encourage people to share these resources. Not just do the stuff with your kids, but going back to that question of cultivating this environment where you value science. Cultivate that in your community. Share these resources with your family, with your friends, with the teachers in your community, because there’s so much stuff. I’ve learned about five new things, just today on this panel, and everyone here is like, “Really? I’ll have to write that down!”

NG: We’re all taking notes.

ML: We’re all taking notes because we don’t know this stuff either. It’s possible that the teachers in your community may not know about all this stuff. So, being an involved parent, and sharing these resources with them, because I can tell you as a teacher, I’m appreciative when somebody shares something really good with me.

I get students coming and saying, “Hey! My mom and I did this!” And I was like, “Really?” and I check it out and say, “Oh my gosh! That’s really good!” So, just get it out there in your community too.

WB: To touch a bit on politics. With so much of the fight between the fundamentalist and the skeptical that is playing out culturally, get involved with your science teachers and feel them out right away. Give them permission to teach your child, because science teachers are feeling a lot of pressure about evolution, and about the skeptical, because the fundamentalist parents are the ones who are going to go running for their job. So, you’ve got to let them know, “I expect you to teach my kid.”

ML: Yeah, not only that, but you have my support. So, if you are in a situation where things are going to get tough, I’ve got your back. I’ll show up for the school board meeting. I’ll talk on your behalf.

BS: When I was in high school, my first day of school, I’d get my new books. My mom would want to look at them, to not quite vet them, but to see what’s going to be taught, what areas are going to be lacking. “Oh, I see that you’re covering this now!” And my mom is the reason that I know so much. She helped me with learning the methodology of how to learn.

So, “Oh! I see you’re covering this now! Well, did you know there’s an awesome film about blankety-blank? Let’s go watch it! It’ll be great!.” Or, “Hey, they’re having a documentary on this, this week.” So, that was always really special to me, being able to spend time with my mom, and talk about what we watched and learned, or what we were reading. “Hey, Mom, do you know anything about the Jim Crow laws?” “Oh, yes! Ken Burns just did an enormous documentary! Sit down and watch eight hours of film on the subject!

NG: Ken Burns!

WB: Who doesn’t have a crush on him?

Audience 11: I’ve got a few things. A recommendation and a question. So, one activity to do with your kids that my wife just discovered is tinkering. All that garbage you have, the old electronics, your tape player, and all that stuff. I just put all that shit in a box, and now it is just going to come up for tinkering, and you take them apart with your kids and figure out how it works.

ML: Getting back on that real quick, before you get to your question, old stuff that you don’t necessarily care about any more is gold for curious kids.

BS: Broken toasters.

ML: Yeah, or you’ve got the old CRT sitting in the basement or the garage because now you’ve got the LCD flat-screen thing going on. Get that and give it to your kid, and have them plug it in, or give them a magnet, let them play with it, because if they destroy it, it’s no big deal.

Audience 11: TV and a screw driver. Go!

ML: Watch out for the capacitors. Make sure they’re discharged before you do that because the kid will get a wonderful hands-on experience of electricity.

NG: You could do that in the Skepchick party room tonight too.

ML: Quick science story: I think one of the reasons I got into physics is because when I was three I kind of electrocuted myself.

NG: That explains a lot.

ML: I was sucking my thumb and I stuck it into a light socket. I blew out every circuit in the house. This explains many things about me.

WB: You were just experimenting at a young age. “What happens if I do this?”

ML: Yeah. I failed and I learned. But, old stuff that maybe we consider junk, this can be a really good gold mine for kids.

WB: Don’t forget about Ax-Man.

BS: Or ArtScraps. They’ve got the old crap too.

WB: I can’t wait until Teddy starts programming her LEDs. [Laughter] And I’m gonna be like, “Could you make Mommy a little headband?”

[More laughter]  

ML: So, to your question, sorry.

Audience 11: The question is, I’m looking for Netflix resources, or stuff on demand that you can watch, because Bill Nye was always way too easy for me. The guy drives me nuts.

WB: Well, Myth Busters is on Netflix.

BS: Mr. Wizard is a lot more methodical.

WB: Yeah, the Discovery Channel, a lot of it’s on. They have a lot of documentaries.

BS: National Geographic Channel.

Audience 11: I’m looking for on-demand.

ML: I don’t have on-demand, so I don’t know.

Audience 12: Magic School Bus?

Audience 13: Beakman’s World?

Audience 14: Beakman’s World! Oh yeah! I love that.

[Several seconds of chaotic cross-talk]  

BS: Slow down! I can’t take notes that fast!


Audience 15: We can repeat!

Audience 16: Online resources for finding cool tools. Buy Beakman’s books, and they have listing for a DVD service that you can subscribe to, and they will send you training. They’ve got everything.

BS: That is so hot!

Audience 16: Building a brick house, all the way up to welding a car.

NG: The thing about Netflix is, once you start watching these things, it’s Netflix. It’s going to keep recommending.

BS: Oh, I see you like to watch this! Would you like to watch this?

[More inaudible cross-talk]  

Audience 17: If you add it to your Instant Queue, your suggestions change. You don’t even have to spend the time to watch it.


Audience 18: I love How It’s Made.

BS: Yes! How It’s Made is a fantastic show! Now I know how plastic-injection moulding works!

WB: There’s an old show called Connections. I loved that show!

BS: 321 Contact. Who remembers that?

WB: But if you can find Connections.

Audience 19: Those are all on YouTube.

WB: It was just this show where he would start with one thing, and sort of wander through, saying “Oh, this guy, it turns out that he knew this guy,” and it’s sort of like six degrees of separation, only science-based.

ML: If you have never seen Connections, just watch the very first episode, where he goes from the infamous 1969 power outage to the plough. The first twenty minutes, if that doesn’t hook you, you must be a robot or something because it’s amazing what he does.

WB: I remember one specific episode where he started with people in France wanting more fancy fabric, Jacquard, which is basically a weaving process where it’s either on the top or it’s on the bottom. It’s binary. And it walked all the way through how people in France wanting fancier fabric led to computers. I was just mind-blown.

Audience 20: Get the books.

WB: Joan?

Audience 3: There’s also, TED Talks on Instant now.

WB: There’s a TED Talks podcast as well.

Audience 11: Is that the same as TED?

WB: They’re from the TED Talks, from the TED organization.

Audience 11: [Inaudible question]

ML: You have to screen them.

Audience 3: It depends on what they are. Some of them are two minutes long; some of them are three hours long. Some of them are on history, and some of them are on how to tie your shoes the best way.

WB: There’s a TED Talk by the dude who did the 538 blog.

Audience 21: Nate Silver.

WB: Yeah. He did a fascinating TED Talk on using statistics to fight racism. Watch it. It was amazing. I showed it to my students just because this is cool. I teach English, but I still want you to watch this.

BS: Random tangent, I saw a TED Talk about a STEER that was adopted because it was a method for how to wash and dry your hands using fewer paper towels. It was three minutes long, and I was like, “Wow!”

WB: How do you wash and dry your hands?

BS: Once you’ve washed your hands, shake them thirteen times; that’s just the best number.

WB: Because they did science.

BS: Because they did science! Take a paper towel. Fold it in half. Dry your hands. Two hands will be completely dry. I promise you.

ML: I’m going to the bathroom immediately after this panel.


WB: Science! Return to the bathroom. Yes.

ML: I will record the results on my blog.

WB: Five shakes, and not folded. Ten shakes, folded. Folding it twice. Different-sized hands.

ML: [Taking notes] A very efficient way to dry hands.

BS: They have really plush towels here, so your hands will be really dry.

WB: [Pointing at audience member] Yes.

Audience 22: Just to share a quick, easy project that Girl Scouts did, that I loved. Animal DNA. Super-easy, all ages. I thought it was fun, and it’s colored marshmallows, toothpicks, and licorice. And the pink marshmallows can only play with the green marshmallows. And the yellow ones can only play with the orange ones, so you’re teaching them how it matches up. Make marshmallows on the little ladders, the toothpicks. Licorice on each side. And then you can truly hold it up and twist it.

BS: Cool!

Audience 22: So all of the girls had to twist it before they were allowed to eat it. But then you’ve got your double-helix, and by the end of the year, every single little girl remembered how DNA works. It was pretty easy, and one of those things that you Google. Say, “I’m going to be teaching them about DNA. What can I do that’s a free DNA experiment for kids?” So, I totally agree about the minimal grocery expense.

BS: I’m a crafter, and I love doing things like that. And the more edible, smaller projects like that are great for kids. But if you want something a little more complicated, you could learn how to knit a DNA helix, which I just think is cool. Or, you’ve probably seen them online, somebody actually knit an entire digestive system! Or they knit a brain, or the knit uterus. Or the knit frog. You know, the dissected frog, all its organs displayed.

I just think that’s so much fun! And when you can do it that way, it’s more accessible. It’s hands on. It gives you an idea of the 3-dimensionality of it. It lets you go, “This connects here, and this connects here.”

ML: It also ties in the more artistic craft side into science.

BS: Yeah.

NG: We’re now into STEAM.

ML: Yeah, but speaking of resources along those lines. If you have kids who are into art, and you want to get them into the sciency side of things too, there’s this great resource called Mad Art Lab.

NG: Love them!


WB: What drives me crazy about current education is they’re taking away all the creative stuff to focus on the traditional stuff, and I’m like, “You’ve got to be creative!” You’ve got to have a creative mind to problem-solve, to do science, to do math, to write.

NG: And you have to be analytic to do art too.

WB: Yeah, and art is a process, and a methodology, a trial and experiment. This is what I was going for until I actually achieved it. They go together, and it just drives me nuts!

NG: Well, that website, I just did an interview with a bunch of them on one of my Google hangout shows, and they are just fantastic.

ML: Mad Art Lab is great. Yeah.

NG: Building pooping rainbow unicorns. They actually made a cannon that looks like a unicorn! It shoots rainbows!

WB: Post a picture on the Facebook page.

NG: You haven’t seen that one?

WB: You know, there’s a room party concept right there!

ML: Oh my!

NG: So, the Skepchick room party is doing Mad Art Lab stuff. Not the unicorn, but they are doing some mixology. So yeah, we love Mad Art Lab.

WB: [Pointing] Yeah.

Audience 23: Did you just say STEAM?

NG: Yes! Science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.

Audience 23: Okay, so if you’re a parent, go out and support them, because there are absolutely zero grants for that. Highschools try to do it with steam-school, and you can’t because you can’t get financial support because you have to be STEM. You really have to advocate for your schools because they don’t get the money otherwise. Push for the STEAM instead of STEM. Because, STEM is awesome, but adding that A is.

NG: STEM is the current buzzword. We try to push it one more.

Audience 23: The art teachers, and the music teachers, they’re disappearing. And the correlations between art and music, and all the other disciplines are so strong.

WB: I will tell you exactly what the St. Paul school district is doing in my former school next year. It is seven periods. And all students are now required to have two blocks of English, one of which will be reading-focused, except that there aren’t enough reading teachers, so they can’t call it reading-focused. So they were going to make me (and I’m a secondary teacher, I don’t have a reading license), teach reading.

And two hours of math. That’s half their day. That means they have cut all of the elective teachers except for two at that school. I know that’s what’s happening at Farnsworth. I am assuming that is what’s going on district-wide. It’s crazy!

These kids that are already struggling are now taking. . . . The fear behind electives is they’re what keep kids in school. “I’m not getting any math. But I’m good at art.” We’ve totally lost industrial arts. Industrial arts don’t happen anymore, which drives me flipping nuts! When I was in middle school, I learned how to solder in industrial arts! I used a power saw, and I made a little car. There was home ec, and I learned how to operate a sewing machine. I am now a master costumer. And you learn at least how to make macaroni and cheese.

All of these things have been lost in our drive to make our kids be literate, and our kids are worse readers now than they were. What is happening now is that kids need to read informational text because that’s what they’re going to do when they grow up, so literally, I was told as a 7th grade English teacher, in my classroom, they need to read 80 percent informational text.


WB: Twenty percent literature. That is what I was instructed to do, and it’s why I had to quit my job. The teachers who believe, if they can’t hack it and they can’t take it, they leave. And then teachers who will do it come in because they want a job, and you have to pay attention to what’s going on in our schools.

Audience 24: The thing in our school this year was a science-arts focus. So they had art class every day, and they had a science class every day.

WB: Theater is no longer in schools. Think about that. Theater is one of the best ways for kids to learn social-interactive skills and interpersonal problem-solving. It’s gone.

Audience 23: So, advocate for your schools. You have to.

ML: You have to advocate for that broad-based curriculum.

WB: Pay attention, and advocate for the other parents as well. Part of why they are able to do these things is that, especially in high-minority and immigrant populations, is people aren’t going to advocate for themselves. They feel so lucky and blessed to be getting an education at all. So, yeah. Sorry to get all down on that. But we can’t have our science if we don’t have our kids reading, and if we don’t have them excited to go to school.

ML: Well, yeah. It’s kind of the whole package.

WB: And obviously, this entire CONvergence community, we’re going to do it right. We have to go out there and help other people, not in a pedantic way, which will be hard.

NG: We can be sharing this list, once it’s posted.

[WB holds up list and people cheer].

ML: Once that gets posted, I’m going to totally reblog that. And I’m also going to blog the results of this dry hands experiment.

WB: Yes, I’ve got to see this.

ML: I want to video that and put it on my YouTube channel.

Audience 25: Could you blog your apps?

ML: Yes, I guess I could do that too, yeah. I could blog my apps.

WB: That’s another resource. Once I get this posted on the Facebook, you can totally comment and add to the thread.

Audience 26: Can you put it on the CONvergence page?

WB: Yes. I’ll put it up there. And I’ll make sure Hal doesn’t delete it.

NG: I know we’re supposed to be ending, but you brought … [points]

ML: What’s the purple fuzzy thing?

[Talking over each other. BS holds up a purple puppet]  

BS: I made a Yip Yip puppet. He’s just walking around with me today.

WB: One of the Cinema Rex guys once made full-sized Yip Yips for Masquerade one year. It was the most hilarious thing.

BS: Their mouths were made out of [inaudible]. It was really cool.

[WB and NG and ML make yip yip noises]  

ML: We all saw that on public television.

WB: Public television!

ML: So, thanks for coming, then.
[Audience applauds]

Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer living in a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband, two kids, dog, and two cats. When not making fun of bad charts or running the Uncensorship Project, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and putting out random dumpster fires. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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