"Science has lost the 'cool factor' and kids have no 'science heroes'"

Science has lost the "cool factor" and kids have no "science heroes."</p>

<p>One major way to get young people to like a subject is to make it appealing. For children, it is much more about seeing something as exotic, approachable, and just as cool as anything else. Unfortunately, we have failed in this department. Consequently, a great number of students are turned off to science. GQ magazine attempted to address the cool factor in science a few years ago by having scientists pose with rock stars. This was actually a decent first step, and is one that requires a more long-term focus. Unfortunately, black and white pictures of our "great science minds" that are very rarely women or people of color do not have the cool factor of the more modern heroes that other disciplines promote.


<p>Christopher</a> Emdin: Five Reasons Why Your Child Won't Be a Scientist (and What You Can Do About It)</p>

<p>Once again, we see an article that lumps all STEM majors together, even though the “need” and job market varies all over the place between the different majors.</p>

<p>Biology is the most popular major at many universities, and the flood of graduates every year means that their job prospects are not very good (about as good as non-job-specific social studies majors).</p>

<p>Improve long-term employment prospects for science and engineering grads not in health care professions, encourage employers and professional schools (such as law schools) outside of STEM to evaluate transcripts holistically (a humanities major with large numbers of STEM classes will generally have a lower GPA than one without), increase funding for R & D, and more students will persist through difficult STEM majors or minors.</p>

<p>For decades, many of our students have been sent the message that while engineering and science degrees can lead to good employment prospects straight out of college, especially for students with few if any family connections or poor English language skills, in the long-term they could find themselves struggling to maintain stable employment in an area close to family.</p>

<p>Not so much here on college confidential, but in real life, Frazzled kids find that they run into many, many middle-aged scientists and engineers who have worked their butts off for decades, only to find that they are deemed over the hill by 45 and easily replaced by someone freshly out of school or someone overseas, or that their specialty has fallen out of favor. (Lots of discouraged ex-NASA employees, for example.)Only the luckiest have pensions. These scientists and engineers often advise studying business, finance, or accounting as a better road to long-term career prospects. Trade schools (for students who like to work with their hands) not so much, since access to good jobs is often through family connections.</p>

<p>Also, while I would agree that in today’s job market, an electrical engineering grad has better job prospects than a biology major, I can still remember that when <em>What Color is Your Parachute?</em> first came out, the target audience was engineers.</p>



<p>What happens is that many of them major in biology (the most popular STEM major) and see a big letdown when the job and career prospects with a biology degree are more comparable to those with a social studies degree than they are to most engineering degrees or a math or statistics degree.</p>

<p>It may be “science fiction”, but my young teen son loves the British TV series Dr Who and enough of his friends do that the “costume” was recognizable and popular the past two years. Also The Big Bang Theory is a huge hit with teens. Now to draw the connect to real life… (Although as teens they don’t think the scientists on Big Bang Theory have it bad, they have jobs, time to hang with friends, are out of the parents house…)</p>

<p>Dr Who is hugely popular in our house too.
Growing up the kids loved David Suzuki, Carl Sagan, Bill Nye & Ms Frizzle ( + many more & we didn’t even have cable)
Who says geeks aren’t cool?

<p>I’m trying to think back to high school and all the “cool” science club kids . . . Nope, not coming up with anything.</p>

<p>If we want to encourage scientific literacy, and science-based careers, one thing that could really help is de-emphasizing the traditional high school science series in favor of programs that include one or more applied science courses. Our school district offers Forensic Science and the kids love it. Lots of solid analytic thinking, lots of application of concepts that will be re-visited (or were already learned) in Bio, Chem, and Physics, and lots of students clamoring for the spaces in the classes because they are in love with “CSI” and other detective shows on TV.</p>

<p>STEM is unpopular because it is incredibly hard and opportunities for them are diminishing. If students are so easily willed to try to go into science based on the “cool factor”, they will probably find the field a lot more challenging than they expected. The media plays on such a big role in shaping the careers of students.</p>

<p>In order to understand much science, even superficially, an entirely new vocabulary needs to be mastered. Exposing kids from day one of elementary school to science terms will help. I remember learning about DNA in college (physical chemists were identifying its properties) while my son did so in elementary school. It is hard when a subject has to involve so much vocabulary along with the concepts. Compare it to all literature being in Middle English- that would take the joy out of reading. The hard part of starting medical school is not new concepts but an entirely new vocabulary, where all terms are important and you can’t ease into it. </p>

<p>Perhaps kindergarteners should be learning more science vocabulary and basic reading texts should incorporate more nonfiction. “Dick” and “Jane” could talk about the leaf they find just as easily as seeing Spot run (a reference to the ancient repetitious books of my first grade). More awareness of applied science in everyday life instead of isolating it to special class time and learning the theory without relating to reality may help. It doesn’t hurt to learn how liquid nail polish hardens et al. Once kids are used to science as a part of every day life they can study it more tradtionally and comprehensively. I always thought history was incredibly boring- memorizing politics and wars, adding and students discussing the “whys” behind the data would have helped. Same goes for science. We interpret novels- why not other fields? Perhaps literature is different, the analysis is important and not the specific plot or words used, plus we already know most of the vocabulary.</p>

<p>The “cool” kids were never the intellectuals in anything. Music, humanities, math or science. Those with intelligence weren’t popular for it but for something else they also had.</p>

<p>As a person in science I wish science was more integrated into everyday life- understanding why things work et al. Instead as a culture we separate it from common knowledge. We should be sneaking the scientific method into ways children think just as we do analysis of written material. Characters in children’s fiction should be using science and nonfiction reading should be a routine part of books read. I learned a lot from reading books about trucks and many other subjects to my preschooler.</p>

<p>I believe this is a combination of anti-intellectualism present in mainstream K-12 schools, culture which disdains academic achievers as “nerds/geeks/freaks”, and the fact STEM is taught so poorly/inconsistently in K-12 that students are either bored out of their minds or way over their heads. </p>

<p>Agreed with an earlier introduction of science into the elementary school curriculum.</p>

<p>*Perhaps kindergarteners should be learning more science vocabulary and basic reading texts should incorporate more nonfiction. *</p>

<p>[The</a> Magic School Bus | Scholastic.com](<a href=“Error Page”>http://www.scholastic.com/magicschoolbus/)

<p>My view on why so many kids avoid STEM in college is due (partly) to the fact that these kids can take almost nothing outside of the engineering curriculum and are so focused STEM activities. My daughter wants to be an engineer, yet she has many, many outside interests. Whenever we ask on tours “what do you do outside of school” we hear about kids being in the Society of Engineers etc… rarely do you hear a kid say: “I play in the band” or “I’m active in my fraternity” (unless it’s an engineering fraternity.).
At one school we just visited, when we asked about taking classes outside of the engineering building, one kid said: “Thank goodness, it’s only 6 classes you can take outside of our curriculum.” Well, what about those kids who really want to take French or History or whatever? </p>

<p>She’s still committed to engineering, but it would be nice if the schools tried to create more well-rounded individuals through their programs.</p>

<p>My personal philosophy is that degrees which are more vocational in nature ( engineering, education, business) are best served by having them in graduate school rather than undergrad.</p>

<p>I think society would benefit by having more engineers who have taken a couple history or philosophy courses!</p>

<p>My kids science hero has a graphic novel written about him…it’s a start.
<a href=“http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/physicist-richard-feynman-is-hero-of-new-graphic-novel/2011/09/13/gIQAOGR4AL_story.html[/url]”>http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/physicist-richard-feynman-is-hero-of-new-graphic-novel/2011/09/13/gIQAOGR4AL_story.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;

<p>also some great shows on TV…mythbusters… robot wars… how does it work…dirtiest jobs…megabuilding and projects…the guys building bikes…weapons…</p>

<p>There is a bunch of good stuff on TV.</p>

<p>^^At least for structural engineering, though, grad school would have to be about four years long, because there is SO much to learn. It’s already hard enough to become an engineer - I don’t think making it harder is a good idea.</p>

<p>“…and the fact STEM is taught so poorly/inconsistently in K-12 that students are either bored out of their minds or way over their heads.”</p>

<p>Yes, yes and yes. They are bored because they are never allowed to experience the coolness of science. Chemistry, biology, physics, etc. are applied sciences that need to be experienced hands on, and yet they are no longer taught properly in HS because the schools are afraid of the potential liabilities. My HS chemistry teacher was not afraid to let us throw chunks of sodium metal in water, as long as we all knew the process involved, could balance the simple equation and wore eye protection. My D’s would-be HS chemistry teacher was fired for letting kids burn things in the lab. Dissolving sugar in water will not get anyone jumping up and down in excitement…</p>

<p>At some colleges, science classes became “weeder courses”, and instead of teaching the science fundamentals and building upon them, profs blow through the curriculum as if their major goal is to fail 3/4th of the class.</p>

<p>For budding science majors (and other science fans): here is a good website with links to all sorts of cool lab demos.</p>

<p>[Demonstration</a> Experiments - Chemistry](<a href=“demochem.de”>demochem.de)</p>



<p>Exactly. Perhaps I was sleeping through that decade, but when was science ever “cool”? (The year of Revenge of the Nerds?)</p>



<p>Yup, and we had a thread about the rigor relative to other liberal arts not too long ago.</p>

<p>We can make science hands-on at the middle and high school level all we want, but until colleges change their harsh grading and rigor philosophies, none of it will matter. A one unit Chem/Bio lab – the ultimate in hands-on experiential learning – can easily consume as much time as a 3-unit lit/hume course.</p>



<p>ABET-accredited engineering degree programs do require more humanities and social studies courses than most humanities and social studies degree programs require STEM courses.</p>



<p>That is more than the one or two STEM courses (usually of the “rocks for jocks” or “physics for poets” type) that H/SS majors typically take. (Of course, there are exceptional schools like MIT where H/SS majors do have to take substantial STEM courses for breadth.)</p>



<p>They can. H/SS requirements for engineering majors are the minimum; students can certainly take more if they want.</p>

<p>Yes, there are many STEM majors who take the minimum possible H/SS courses and deliberately seek out the easiest possible H/SS courses. But H/SS majors appear to be even more guilty of that with respect to STEM courses.</p>

<p>I don’t know if science and math has ever in history been “cool.” regardless, I think the issue is that it’s portrayed and many times is a solitary or non-social pursuit…the mathmetician scribbling formulas (by himself), the gal in the lab looking through the microscope not talking to anyone else, the chess players hunched over a game board deadly silent and barely moving…perhaps someone needs to change the iconic images and how science and math is represented first, then work on people’s impressions. And sad to say but if STEM really is about the individual and the indivdiual’s output…it’s never going to be “cool.” Cool is always about something that engages other people.</p>