Thursday, February 26, 2009

Who's the Scientist?

I can't recall what chain of links initially led me to this website, but I'm so glad that I found it. It collects the drawings and descriptions of scientists made by a seventh grade class both before and after a visit to FermiLab. In addition to being absolutely adorable, these creative projects give us a sense of the popular conception of what a scientist is, and how it may differ from what real scientists are like. I was heartened to see that while many kids drew a stereotypical bald white guy as their "before" scientist, some of them knew going into this project that scientists can be, for example, women. The white lab coat was fairly universal, though. I guess kids don't know how lax we are with our PPE. (They also seemed excited to learn that real scientists wear casual clothes to work. Examining the photo of the class will show that they're wearing school uniforms, and apparently are not big fans of the restrictive dress code.)

This web discovery is especially appropriate given that I will be doing some outreach with seventh graders myself. As part of our first-year graduate seminar, Emory neuroscience students will be participating in Brain Awareness Month this March. I'm working with a partner to design a lesson for a middle school class. We'll be teaching about the neuromuscular junction, and how some native Georgia species produce toxins that affect this synapse. (Coral snakes have a curare-like toxin in their venom, which blocks acetylcholine receptors in the muscle cell. Black widow spider venom, on the other hand, induces the nonspecific release of acetylcholine. Both of them can mess you up.)

I think it would be great to have "my" seventh-graders do this exercise. I've already been matched with a local teacher for Brain Awareness Month; I may have to contact him and see if he's into it. Ideally, I'd then get to take some of the drawings home and put them on my fridge. I'll be sure to post again after my classroom visit, and let you all know how it goes!

1 comment:

  1. Cool project!

    And boy, those scientists sure had some messaging discipline.