What do you want to be when you grow up?

Dr. Yvonne Skipper

Today’s blogger is Yvonne Skipper, who co-authored with Eloise de Carvalho to write “’I Have Seen the Opportunities That Science Brings’: Encouraging Girls to Persist in Science,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

This time-honored question, which children across the globe are asked with regularity, can lead to surprising responses.

Beyond the whimsical “princess” and “unicorn” to the heart-warming “happy,” children often have strong ideas even before they reach school.

However, as children get older and learn more about the world, these ideas can change.

For example, we cannot all become a real princess like Megan Markle! Sometimes these views change, not because of how children see the world, but because of how the world sees them. Society may openly or subtly suggest that certain jobs are for men and others for women.

This view can impact the subjects and careers children choose, as illustrated in this brief video.

There is currently a huge demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates in the workforce. Those with a STEM background are valued not just in the science-based jobs, but also in other roles where the ability to think critically, analyze data, and evaluate evidence is prized.

However, often children are not interested in STEM subjects, seeing them as “too hard” or “boring,” and they are even less interested in scientific careers. When you look at those who do continue in science, typically you find more boys in STEM subjects, such as math and physics, and in pursuit of careers such as engineering. This difference is not seen because girls lack talent in these subjects. In fact, girls often perform better than boys, receiving higher proportions of the top grades. So why are these talented girls less likely to continue in STEM than boys?

It has been suggested that we choose our subjects and our careers based on whether we think we can succeed and our values.

Boys are more likely than girls to believe they can succeed in STEM, even though they are overall less likely to get the highest grades. Their belief might come from seeing so many famous male scientists, both in academia and in fiction. This can lead boys and girls to believe that men are more likely to succeed and also more likely to “belong” in science. Even the television show Big Bang Theory focuses more on male scientists; female scientists Amy and Bernadette do not appear until later seasons and are working in the more “female” fields of medicine and neurobiology. It is important that the media fully represent female scientists in their factual and fiction programming.

We also choose subjects and careers that we think we will enjoy and that we see as useful in our lives or in our communities.

Many girls choose careers where they can help others, such as teaching, midwifery, and social work. Girls often do not perceive STEM careers as “helpful.” This is interesting because, for example, designing a new wheelchair to manage rough terrain, creating inclusive educational technologies, and researching cures for diseases could have a positive impact and help people worldwide. Yet often girls do not make the connection between STEM subjects and the impact of associated careers, and may prefer a more interpersonal approach to helping.

Promoting how “helpful” science can be could potentially lead girls to develop an understanding about how science improves society.

In our Forum article, Eloise and I are not saying that girls should be pushed into science careers, but instead that women should not leave a subject or career path for the “wrong” reason, such as believing that they are less likely to succeed than others or that they will not belong. Instead it is important that we feel able to choose our subjects and career paths in line with our interests and goals for ourselves and our communities.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through June 30, 2019.

Little Landowners: Caring for Nature

Photo credit: Devan King/The Nature Conservancy

Picture this: you’re a kid, it’s a sunny yet breezy summer afternoon—one that you wish would never end.

You’re hiking on trails, then make a mad dash through a corridor of pine trees.

You get to cross a trickling creek and wander through an old hay field that’s slowly returning to forest. When you’re done exploring you try to locate your very own piece of this amazing place.

Your spot? Yes – a piece of land that’s just for you, inside the Children of Indiana Nature Park.

The Children of Indiana Nature Park (Park) is nestled in eastern Indiana, spanning over 30 acres on the Cope Environmental Center property. A creek, a hay field and rows upon rows of pines are found here. The Park is the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors, then zoom in your spot using GPS coordinates that are yours only.

Where do these coordinates come from? They come from your “Nature IN-Deed,” a special gift from the State of Indiana. In celebration of Indiana’s 200th birthday, every child in Indiana was given the opportunity to own a piece of nature. Kids can download their Nature IN-Deeds at ilovemyland.org.

The State—and the other partners involved in the Park—want this Nature IN-Deed to be the stepping stone that will get all kids outside and start reaping the many benefits of nature.

Our society has seen a major shift in how children spend their free time.

Photo credit: © Jessica Scranton

Before screen time, extra-extracurricular activities, and jam-packed schedules kids grew up exploring their backyards and discovering outdoors during their exploration. Since the 1990s, time spent outside has since been replaced with technology and organized activities.

In fact, only about 10% of children spend time outside compared to 40% just a generation ago[1].

Parents and teachers can register their students for a deed to the Park by visiting www.ilovemyland.org. Each deed is unique to the individual that holds it; no two deeds are alike. Once registered, the student, parent, or teacher, can punch in their coordinates and find their spot, either virtually or during a visit to the Park. Children are encouraged to keep their deeds in a special place, so that they can pass down the ownership of their land to their children and grandchildren.

 

Kids connect best with nature when they play frequently and freely in a nature place near them, and for most children, those “near places” are home and school.  As educators, providing opportunities for your students to explore the greenspace at your school or on field trips can help your students receive the benefits that nature provides, and further nurture kids’ desire to care for nature.

What ideas do you have for kindling a love for nature with the students at your school?

We’d love to hear them! Comment on this post or email us at ChildrenOfIndianaNaturePark@tnc.org.

Mary McConnell

Author: Mary McConnell, Director (retired), The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter

[1] Oxford Junior Dictionary’s replacement of ‘natural’ words with 21st-century terms sparks outcry.   Flood, Alison.  The Guardian.  January 15, 2015.

Happy Earth Day!

Living in the Midwest, April is a most welcome time of year when we can more comfortably spend time outdoors and enjoy the sight of green grass, budding trees, blooming flowers and the sound of birds returning from their winter homes.

However, the arrival of spring can no longer be taken for granted.

As Rachel Carson warned us more than 50 years ago through her story of DDT contamination in communities across the country in her book, Silent Spring, we must continue to take action to protect our natural environment and slow down its degradation.

We must work to combat greed and the abuse of the environment by humans and to help people become stewards of the living earth, acting responsibly and carefully.

Additionally, we must remain vigilant to the continued rollback of policies that were put in place to protect our water, air and soil, and the creatures with whom we share the Earth. Human self-interest needs to be re-framed so that we humans live as an equal part of the earth earth’s systems and not the master of them.

As educators, we have a large role to play.

More than 80% of U.S. parents want their children to be climate change literate. We must help our students gain the knowledge, skills and global mindset of equity necessary to be prepared for an uncertain future and to become good stewards of the earth.

Addressing climate change can start with small changes to our individual lifestyles, classrooms and communities.

Research has shown that students can bring new practices and understandings to their families and communities.

These practices could be starting to recycle family or classroom trash, reduce water consumption when washing one’s hands or teeth, or helping the school cafeteria to reduce waste —all of which help the environment.  Small changes can add up to have a big impact.

So, as we commemorate Earth Day, what will you do to help your students take the first step toward making a change for a better future?

What commitment will you make to celebrate Earth Day?

Share your plans with others in the KDP community in the Educator Learning Network.

We really do have the power to change the world.

Image result for earth day 2019

Faye Snodgress is the Executive Director of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education.

The Outdoor Classroom: Where Nature Nurtures Kids’ Ability to Learn

magnifying-glassModern life often moves at a frantic pace: families, friends, and others often maintain full schedules with little time allowed to pause and take in what is happening around them.

For students arriving at school for the day, their morning may have been a blur of activity – hopping out of bed, getting dressed, eating a quick breakfast, then grabbing their backpack to head off to school.

A student’s day—like those of most adults—is often just moving, from one car, classroom, or building to another. The outside world oven gets overlooked. But it’s this outside world that may help students inside.

stewardshipAs adults, we know that the ability to focus on the task at hand can ensure its success. We also know that sometimes it is easier to maintain our focus than at other times.

The process of becoming better able to focus is where nature can help. And often it’s just a matter of getting kids outside.

In one study[1], children who spent one class session in a natural outdoor setting were more engaged and less distracted during indoor class time afterward than if they had been indoors for two consecutive classes.

Some teachers may have concerns that an outdoor classroom would over-stimulate students, making them less able to focus afterwards. Yet this study found the opposite to be true: classroom engagement was better for those students exposed to nature than those students taught solely in an indoor classroom.

studentsBeing in nature not only helps students to be more focused, it also introduces students to the first step in the scientific method: to observe

From watching the clouds while looking up at the sky, to rolling back a fallen log to investigate which creatures live underneath, to watching a flower emerge from the ground and ultimately bloom in springtime, nature offers an infinite number of opportunities to witness how plants, animals and climate interact.

Observation can lead to asking questions, instilling a curiosity about our natural world that spills over into the classroom.

And as teachers know, curious children make better students.

A student who develops a question based on their personal observation is developing curiosity and critical thinking skills.

See what these educators have to say about the benefits of nature for young learners.

Nature provides engaging and relaxing ways for students to learn, so let’s make the most of our greenspace to expand and transform children’s learning experiences.

Learn more by visiting www.ILoveMyLand.org today.

Questions? Contact us at ChildrenofIndianaNaturePark@tnc.org

Mary McConnell

Author: Mary McConnell, Director, The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter

[1] Lessons in nature boost classroom engagement afterward. Yates, Diana. University of Illinois. January 17, 2018.

Standing in Line for Life’s Basic Need: Water

Erik Byker

Dr. Erik Byker

Today’s blogger is Erik Jon Byker, Associate Professor in the Cato College of Education at UNC Charlotte. His article “Global Water Crisis: Preparing Preservice Teachers for ‘Day Zero,’” coauthored by Michael Putman, Chris Reddy, and Lesley LeGrange, appeared in the January 2019 issue of the Kappa Delta Pi Record.

I often ask the undergraduate students I teach what they would be willing to stand in line for at least 1 hour to get.

After some quizzical expressions, the students chime in with responses like, “my favorite restaurant,” “concert tickets,” “roller coaster ride,” and “a sporting event.”

Then, I up the queue wait time to 3 hours, and the students go largely silent except for the one or two loyal music fans or sports fanatics.

I end the thought experiment by asking, “How long would you stand in line for a couple bottles of water?” Most of the students look at me rather puzzled and have a hard time even fathoming this inquiry.

Yet, waiting in line for water is increasingly becoming a daily reality for many people around the world.

About this same time last year, for example, citizens in Cape Town, South Africa, would line up to collect their daily water ration of just 50 liters of water per day. And Cape Town is not the only large urban area to be affected by the global water crisis. The British Broadcasting Company explained that there are nearly a dozen other large cities that are water stressed. This Friday, March 22, is World Water Day, which is a day to highlight the importance of water for sanitation and health (WASH).

World Water Day also helps to raise awareness about the global water crisis, which impacts more than 2 billion people around the globe. In her 2015 book Raising Awareness, Raising Hope, Lori Stoltzman shares other eye-opening statistics from the United Nations and the World Health Organization about the global water crisis:

  • Women and children (usually girls) spend up to 60% of each day walking to collect water.
  • 160 million children suffer from stunting and chronic malnutrition due to unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation.
  • Without access to a latrine, many girls in lesser developed nations stop going to school once they reach puberty.

Raising awareness is a pathway for taking action. In the article “Global Water Crisis: Preparing Preservice Teachers for ‘Day Zero,’” my colleagues and I discuss how an immersive study abroad experience in South Africa led many of our teacher candidate participants to adopt water conservation habits. Yet, educators do not have to travel halfway around the world to investigate the water crisis. There are examples like Flint, Michigan, and the Catawba River Basin in North Carolina, which impact localities across the United States.

To integrate World Water Day (which should be every day), educators can start by supporting their learners in examining the importance of water to everyday health and well-being.

One effective strategy for this examination is to distribute one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) icons and then simply ask the question, “How is water connected or related to the icon you have? Explain the connection.” Another strategy, which integrates with mathematics, is to have learners estimate how many liters of water are used for everyday activities like brushing teeth, flushing the toilet, cooking food, and washing dishes.

Such an activity helps learners analyze how quickly 50 liters of water can get consumed. As learners gain greater awareness about the importance of water, it could lead to participation in service learning opportunities organized by groups like H2O for Life, which engages learners of all ages in a Walk for Water.

To close, I ask again, “How long would you wait for a couple of bottles of water?” The question answers itself depending on the water scarcity. During World Water Day (and beyond), let’s commit to raising awareness and taking action about the global water crisis. Such acts are part of becoming a Critical Cosmopolitan Citizen or what Paulo Freire explained as developing a critical consciousness in order to rewrite the world.

I am more and more convinced that educators need to promote greater water literacy so that even a couple of bottles of water will be viewed as a precious resource to meet our daily need.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the Kappa Delta Pi Record with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through April 30, 2019.

World Water Day 2019

Click the image above to visit the official World Water Day website.

A Lost Experience: Kids in Nature

Have you ever asked your grandparents or parents about what they did for fun as a child?

If you did, you likely heard stories about climbing trees, building forts, chasing fireflies, fishing, riding bikes, playing outdoors with neighborhood friends, or going to a nearby park for a pickup game or sport.

Ask today’s elementary school students what they do for fun, and the answer is quite different.

The current generation of young people are playing video games, sending texts, and making posts on social media. Some are passionate about a sport, to which they may dedicate numerous hours each week. Most of these activities are done indoors.

Today, many kids stay inside because of the weather or from fear of a mosquito, spider, snake, or . . . (insert the name of your most dreaded creature).

The outdoor and nature-based activities of prior generations provided adventure, fun, and entertainment for youth.

Like the dinosaurs, are the outdoor activities of our parents and grandparents becoming extinct?

The Nature Conservancy wants to keep those connections to nature and the outdoor world very much alive. We want every child in Indiana—and the world—to enjoy the many benefits that nature gives us.

Scientists are studying nature’s effects on people and measuring some of the amazing things that we may have experienced or know intuitively. Being in nature helps adults reduce hypertension and depression. Kids who live on a farm and are exposed to soil and domestic animals are less likely to have asthma than urban children. The risk of nearsightedness is reduced when children play outside more. Playing in gardens or natural areas contributes positively to learning and development, aiding cooperation skills and reducing conflict among children.

Connecting to nature helps improve the health and well-being of children, their families, and their communities. The Nature Conservancy knows that if we care for nature, nature will care for us.

We want to encourage childhood time exploring nature and avoid the possibility that time in nature could become an “extinct” childhood experience.

Will you join us in this endeavor?

Questions? Contact us at ChildrenofIndianaNaturePark@tnc.org

Mary McConnell

Author: Mary McConnell, Director, The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter

Mother Nature—Kids’ Second Favorite Teacher

Remember your favorite teacher growing up?

Chances are, she inspired a love of learning in you. She probably told stories, showed examples, and helped connect the dots between lessons learned in the classroom and those in the outside world.

That’s just what nature can do for you and your students: inspire a love of learning, provide examples you can feel, and, most importantly, connect what we learn to how it can help our planet. Nature is a common denominator that we all share—and a wonderful natural teacher, too!

Although nature is all around us, getting students to connect to the natural world is often difficult, given the daily distractions of full schedules, screens, and information coming from all directions.

Yet the benefits we get from nature are endless.

Click here to learn more!

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is also good at connecting the dots.

Our long history of working to protect land and water in Indiana, across the United States, and around the world has helped bring together people and communities to find practical solutions to nature’s biggest challenges. Here at TNC, we know that if we protect nature, it will protect us.

Connecting to nature helps improve the health and well-being of children, their families, and their communities.

What’s more, nature can help kids become better learners. And, by learning more, we can help kids care more about the natural world and why they should help protect it. After first hearing the song of a bird through a website, kids can then listen for that sound outdoors and even hear it before they spot it in a tree. When you can identify an animal, you know what it is, and you probably care about it a little more than before you knew its name.

According to Solutions Journal, kids today can identify about 1,000 corporate logos, but few can identify more than a handful of native plant and animal species.

We all learn differently, whether it’s by sight, sound, touch, or interaction. Nature connects all the dots and is something that kids can experience using all their senses. Bringing nature into the classroom or, better yet, taking your kids out into nature, will stimulate their senses and help them connect what they learn in the classroom to the outside world.

With your help, your students could have a second favorite teacher: Mother Nature!

Mary McConnell

Author: Mary McConnell, Director, The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter