Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Finding Heroes In Science And Engineering

A very spot-on article by Larry Bock on the need to expose kids to not only the field of science and engineering, but also to the people who are scientists and engineers.

In the study, Moseley and Norris examined the drawings and verbal impressions of 550 current and soon-to-be K-8 teachers about scientists. Although the researchers found that study participants described scientists as intelligent, hardworking and theoretical, many also described them as impersonal, boring and nerdy. Participants also generally portrayed scientists as stern, bespectacled older white men with unfashionable clothes and unkempt hair, and who worked alone.

A teaching student in the study, after reflecting on her drawings and verbal comments, said, these perceptions are "supplied to us by the movie industry and the media. I remember many times as a child watching cartoons or movies that portrayed a scientist much the same as mentioned above. It may seem like an unfair generalization, but then stereotypes usually are."

Such a perception is consistent with what we see in the drawings of scientists done by kids. Such perception can easily be corrected by exposing people to scientists and engineers, and what they do. It is why whenever I read about some open house or festivals where the public can actually get to see and interact with scientists, I try to highlight them here. These are the few opportunities for people to not only see and learn about the research work being done, but to actually get to see the people who do them and, hopefully, dispel some of those stereotypes.


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