Why talk about science to non-scientists? Why not just let scientists stay cloistered in their labs with other scientists, looking through microscopes and talking about scientific stuff? They don’t need any help from non-scientists. Or do they?
At Science Online 2013, I was fortunate to kick February off with an amazing group of individuals who will happily give you a million reasons that we should all be talking about science. This group of students, researchers, writers, artists, librarians and communicators are collectively working to discover better ways to engage the public in the wonder of science without simply lecturing us. They want to excite and challenge us, without overestimating our knowledge or underestimating our intelligence.
After all, a little knowledge about science can go a long way in helping us make well-informed decisions about everything from personal health to the environment. And we all need to dream of stars.
One group of scientists in particular caught my attention, and they were looking for help with real research projects that may someday be published in scientific journals and make a difference in the world.
This type of research is known as Citizen Science, and to be involved, you don’t need a degree or any scientific background at all. It’s not expensive. You might just need a plastic bag or a pair of binoculars. Depending on your interest, you can do anything from taking a video of someone playing with your dog, collecting ants, recording severe weather in your own back yard, to swabbing for microbes in your home, school or sports stadium. You can even keep track of when your neighborhood outdoor hockey rink freezes and thaws or look for Camel Crickets in your basement.
Scistarter.com is a great starting point to help you find a project that fits your interests.
Who knows? You might discover a new ant species, learn something new, or even participate in a study that helps make the world a better place.
In a few weeks, I’ll be heading to North Carolina to attend Science Online 2013, an “un-conference” of online science communicators, writers, artists and video-makers. It will be next to impossible to choose which sessions to attend, since people will be talking about everything from writing science narrative to drawing science comics and using science to write fiction. I’ll be co-moderating a session on writing for kids with Elizabeth Preston, Editor of Muse magazine (which my 12-YO loves) and giving a short talk on why I made KidScience app.
To make the meeting even more fun, there will be a Cyberscreen film festival and an art show for participants, which inspired me to pull out my paintbrushes from college and do a quick “self portrait with microbes.” It’s been so much fun to paint again that I might go buy another canvas today and paint a “Still Life with Bacteria.”
My musician friend helped me make my silly “science song” sound amazing so I can use it on my website and for videos like the one above that I made for KidScience app.
How do you mix up science, music, film and art? Do you know any science project that can morph into art projects, like red cabbage litmus paper collages or photographing tie-dye milk patterns? I’d love to hear your ideas! I’ll let you know about the cool things I learn and fun resources I discover at ScienceOnline in early February!