Scientific advancement anywhere has the capacity to affect the lives of people everywhere. Whether it’s an innovation in technology or insight into a long-studied field. This is why actively working to realize diversity and inclusion (D&I) in our laboratories and classrooms is so necessary.
Science belongs to everyone. Scientists of every background have a right to participate in the shared pursuit of understanding.
Initiatives like our “This is How I Science” campaign, that uplift the stories of people of color (PoC) working in STEM, can provide an invaluable platform for professionals to engage with the values of diversity and inclusion. However, that invaluable work is by no means limited to the work bench. In fact, this work can, and must, go beyond the laboratory.
Corporate diversity and inclusion requires industry leaders and scientific institutions to recognize and elevate aspiring scientists of all backgrounds. Scientific communities need help with identifying people of all backgrounds. They need to help recognize those who are unaware of the role science can play in their lives. This aims at enacting diversity and inclusion in STEM on a nationwide or global level. At work, and in school, we are working to reach those who know they have a passion for science.
How can we reach those who don’t have a passion for science but could?
There’s plenty of reasons people may feel like science is beyond them. Lack of educational resources, opportunities, or even a lack of confidence are some of them. And you don’t have to imagine someone in a place you’ve never met to meet those people. They might already be in your community, curious minds with yet unchanneled aptitude.
Being a steward for someone else’s immersion in amateur scientific research may sound a little daunting on its surface. But connecting people to science is as easy as it is rewarding.
Before they beheld cell formations under a microscope, some scientists made do with a dinner table and whatever the family kitchen could spare. Connecting with the childhood activities of other scientists might enable you to help the young people in your life form their own lifelong connections with science.
This “kitchen table science” combines the joy of discovery with the familiarity of everyday places and objects. A comfortable, familiar environment is a crucial and oft-overlooked aspect of accessibility in science.
By facilitating an affirming scientific space in the home, you are doing your part to make science more accessible.
Another critical facet of accessibility is being conscious of the particular educational needs of the specific ages you’re working with. When selecting experiments for students, it’s imperative to pick ones with a degree of challenge appropriate to their development.
A Berry Enriching Experiment
Strawberry DNA Extraction – STEM Education Activity
Watch this video to see how you can extract the DNA from the inside of a strawberry.
Extracting DNA from a strawberry, for example, transforms an everyday object into a lens through which a student can begin to see the hidden intricacies of the natural world.
Extracting and observing DNA is a very common task. Scientists in labs all over the world do every day. Being able to accomplish it at home can give students a real sense of accomplishment that may embolden their confidence.
This experiment is best with fresh strawberries, which are typically “in season” from May to early July. If you live in California, where 90% of the United States’ strawberries are farmed, fresh varieties may be available from March to August depending where you are.
A Lava Other Good Ideas
STEM Innovation Nation: Chemistry of Slime Activity
Learn about the chemistry behind making slime through this easy to follow tutorial.
If strawberries are out of season, making homemade slime or building a lo-fi lava lamp to demonstrate principles of chemistry may provide satisfactory payoffs for a similar degree of challenge, though it may involve a little more cleanup.
Thermo Fisher STEM Education Activity – Bubbling Lava
Join a scientist at Thermo Fisher Scientific to learn about the chemistry and different stages of matter in this kid friendly science experiment.
These experiments appeal to some kids’ seemingly natural affinity to gooey, messy substances but also offer exciting, accessible lessons in chemical properties and reactions.
Rock, Paper, Science
Paper Chromatography – STEM Education Activity
Learn how to separate the different colors of ink and dye from markers and candy using the process of chromatography.
If you have drinking glasses to spare, or you’re working with children who are particularly interested in the science of colors, this paper chromatography experiment might be more easily contained.
Watching raisins dance in carbonated water can be fun. But it may not provide an easy segue into discussing careers in science. Each of the previously linked experiments provided by Thermo Fisher provide examples of real scientific careers that may interest student scientists, everything from technical writing to analytical chemistry.
For those who struggle with a perception of science as lifeless numbers, equations, and formulas, leading into a discussion of careers with recreationally fulfilling activities may help them overcome their own unease.
In this way, we are making science as a career accessible. to more people by challenging misconceptions of what scientific work is and can be.
Life Sciences Are Living Sciences
It is vital that all of us who wish to see flourishing of diversity and inclusion in science be committed to preventing or undoing misconceptions of science as something certain people can’t or shouldn’t do wherever we can in our personal and professional lives.
Any time someone who once believed science was beyond them is able to see themselves working in science, that is a win for all of us. Even if that person ultimately chooses not pursue science as a career.
The lasting beneficial legacy of this work – of bringing engaging, accessible scientific demonstrations into the homes or libraries or community centers of young people – is that by finding someone who is being underserved in scientific education and helping them reimagine science and their capacity to do it, you are empowering them to recognize that science is everywhere.
A home cook who builds a garden of upcycled planters is doing science. A delivery driver who records and catalogs birdsongs in their spare time is doing science. An artist who mixes pigments, solvents, and resins to produce a specific visual effect is doing science.
When DIY and D&I collide, we are able to realize something greater than a better world for scientists. We can build a better world of scientists.
Want to read more stories like this? Subscribe to Connect to Science, your portal for life science news.