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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Outreach activity [20080612|16:07]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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This morning, I gave a talk in Lambeth to 22 nine-year-olds (Year 5, for those familiar with the UK educational system). I told them about Cassini and Saturn and Saturn’s moons, and speculated on how life might be able to survive on Titan or Enceladus.

I also gave them a survey with four questions to fill out, two for before the talk and two for after. I can’t resist sharing some of the choice responses.

  1. What do you picture when you imagine a scientist?

    • "The scientist using glasses. A white hat and kind of a white cloth like a white dress."
    • "I imagine a scientist looking at a rocket"
    • "2 patches of white hair, very very thick glasses"
    • "Very very very smart" [Gosh!]
    • "I imagine 2 big glases and the vestments all white" [Vestments? Wow!]
    • "with glasses and mysterious" [Awesome.]
    • "When one man can rech the moon."
    • "A geek because on t.v. I see scientists and they are geeks!" [Great, now I hate the media even more.]

  2. What do you think scientists do each day?

    • "Explore. Try and take over world"
    • "They do tests on stuff and make potions."
    • "Sciens" [This was repeated more than once. *headdesk*]
    • "Lern difrent ting each day"
    • "When they rech the moon they see they have big hole in the moon." [O_O]
    • "They discovered space"

  3. Has your opinion of scientists changed? How?

    • "Yes, I now think they’re really fantastic and interesting." [Yay!]
    • "They are not always in labs and are happy people." [Huzzah!]
    • "NO." [Considering how many of them wrote variations on “a man in a white coat with glasses” for the answer to the first question, I found this slightly depressing. Of course, there were about an equal number of unadorned “YES” answers as well.]
    • "Yes change because is really good" [Aw.]
    • "They need to know lots stuff practices sciences skills, they have PhD"
    • "the men said “girl can come in”." [I...I don’t even know what to say about this.]
    • "The spase [sic] lads like a plan." [HAHAHA]

  4. What’s your favourite thing that you learned today?

    • "The worms that live in Tiban [sic] and what Saturn looks like." [I didn’t say there were worms that lived on Titan, btw. I was trying to make a case for the survival of life in extreme environments using the giant tube worms that live near sulphur vents in the ocean.]
    • "About the Titan."
    • "Learning about the solar system. And the moon. It was fantastic."
    • "Learn about scientist." [NB: They didn’t exactly ask me a lot of questions about myself!]
    • "They [as in astronauts] put things on to protect themselves."
    • "If you go near the sun without raidiation [sic] protection you would melt."
    • "The things you could buy with £3.2 billion." I said Cassini cost $3.2 billion, and told them that would buy them 7500 Lamborghinis or 8 million iPods. They LOVED that bit. ?!

Also included were some quite detailed drawings of Cassini, of rockets, and of astronauts. The next time I do this, I plan to add a question about whether or not they believe aliens exist, and will divide the questionnaire so that the “Before” questions are on one side of the sheet and the “After” questions on the other.

They asked me loads of questions about how to get into space and about what astronauts eat and how they breathe. They also asked me about how the Space Shuttle can come back to Earth, and when I explained that it landed just the same way a plane did, with wheels that came down from the bottom, they gasped. I was quite surprised to find that it was my answers to these questions that impressed them the most.

Next up is a session for 40 sixteen-year-olds (Year 12) at the end of June. For a person with a mortal dread of public speaking, I sure have signed up to do a lot of it.

[User Picture]From: impix
2008-06-12 15:34 (UTC)
i love this. :DDDD

well done for doing it, i bet it was great seeing them all gasp over stuff like worms! and space suits! and ipods!

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-13 15:07 (UTC)
It did make me happy that they seemed genuinely interested in what I was saying. And they were very keen to ask questions!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-13 15:07 (UTC)
Did she let you?
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[User Picture]From: giles
2008-06-12 15:45 (UTC)
"Lern difrent ting each day"

I'm picturing a teeny tiny Rastafarian when I read this.

More to the point, have you been to space? Did you build a rocket?
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-13 10:30 (UTC)
The thing is, they all wrote their names on the survey (which I hadn't intended for them to do), and I'm pretty sure the little girl who wrote that was a teeny tiny Rastafarian.
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[User Picture]From: smallfurry
2008-06-12 15:49 (UTC)
When the shuttle program was first implemented, I was about that age, or a little older, and I remember what a big deal it was. The "piggyback" jet with the shuttle once landed at our local defunct airbase to refuel, I was there for science fair and we all ran to the fence to see it land.

It's odd to think that 9 yr olds don't know much about it at all. I guess it's "old news" now, shuttle takeoffs and landings are barely mentioned in the news, unless of course, the toilet backs up on the space station. :)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-13 10:35 (UTC)
Yes, I was surprised that they didn't know what the Space Shuttle looked like, but they had seen pictures of and from the Mars Rovers, and they knew that there was an International Space Station.
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From: tdj
2008-06-12 16:04 (UTC)
For a person with a mortal dread of public speaking, I sure have signed up to do a lot of it.

Someone's got to undo the damage the rest of the world has inflicted upon them!

I like "Explore. Try to take over world" especially. As if the kid wrote down "explore" and then confused himself. Waitaminute...why do they explore? Oh yes, the taking over the world thing.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-13 10:33 (UTC)
The truly exasperating thing is that I don't think he was taking the piss. If it had come from an older child, maybe. He also wrote "No I don't know" as a response to the third question. Sigh.
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[User Picture]From: wurlitzerprized
2008-06-12 18:01 (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-13 10:29 (UTC)
It was. I think I'm still a little bit high from it!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-13 10:28 (UTC)
You know, I was all ready for them to ask me questions about my personal life. I'd been repeatedly warned at various training sessions for volunteers that it was very likely to happen, and to be prepared to draw the line line when I didn't want to answer. But they were so caught up in astronauts and rockets and moons that it didn't even occur to them. I doubt I'll be that lucky every time though.
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[User Picture]From: danaid_luv
2008-06-12 22:19 (UTC)
I had to re-read the opening bit three times before my brain kicked in...these answers from twenty-two year olds? Is she kidding? My six year old would have phrased it better... Reading for Content, wheee!

I bet they loved the talk--you could film yourself & be appreciated by millions! ;) (if so, I'd like a copy. Just sayin')
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-13 10:22 (UTC)
The organizers and the teacher made me sound really important in my introduction, and they stressed how privileged the kids were that I took time out of my day to come to talk to them. On the one hand, this had the effect of causing them to sit still during my talk, which was good. On the other hand, it made them terrified of me, initially. Once I started asking them questions, they got properly engaged and lost their fear, but I'm not so sure that was the best way to start!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-13 10:15 (UTC)
Also, meetings. They love meetings. Argh.
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[User Picture]From: tharine
2008-06-13 06:34 (UTC)
this so rules. wish i could have been in said class. srsly.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-13 10:19 (UTC)
It was a talk I'd modified slightly that targets 12-13 year olds, and there was some stuff that went way over their heads. I'm sure the adults in the room probably got more out of it, in a technical sense, than the kids!
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[User Picture]From: nimoloth
2008-06-14 21:23 (UTC)
I like outreach work. Primary school children ask the hardest questions by far!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-06-17 16:20 (UTC)
I'm looking forward to hearing what the Year 12s ask, but I'm willing to bet their questions won't be nearly as wide-ranging or entertaining.
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