Science can be cool

Students at MaST II Community Charter met with Dr. Anne Galyean while learning about women in the science field.

That’s girl stuff: Students at MaST II Community Charter School combined science class with Women’s History Month and learned about the great contributions women have made to the science field. JOHN COLE/TIMES PHOTOS

What does a “super-cool scientist” look like? Last Thursday, third-grade students at MaST II Community Charter School, 6238 Rising Sun Ave., had the opportunity to speak with one, Dr. Anne Galyean.

The month of March was Women’s History Month, and third-grade teachers at MaST II were tasked with giving their students assignments relating to learning about women in the science field.

Teacher Jenna Sullivan thought it would be beneficial to learn more about modern female scientists, and they found just what the third-grade teachers needed in a book.

“We decided after we found a book, Super Cool Scientists, at Barnes and Nobles,” said Sullivan. “We found some modern scientists women who are really inspiring students to be interested in science.”

Each of the 100 students in third grade was assigned a scientist to research for the project to learn more about their careers. Sullivan and the three other third-grade teachers recognized the lack of information about many of these modern-day scientists and thought it would be most useful for students to use the power of modern-day technology to get the information they needed.

JOHN COLE/TIMES PHOTOS

“A lot of the things that we were finding is that because these are modern scientists, there’s not a lot of information about them on the internet or in books because they’re newer,” said Sullivan. “So our students got really creative and some of them used the help of their parents to contact them (scientists) through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”

The students and teachers alike were pleasantly surprised to see the willingness to engage from many of the scientists, but none more outgoing than Galyean.

Trinity Birkholz and Isaac Garcia Freire were both assigned to research the interdisciplinary PhD scientist from Seattle, and Galyean showed an interest back in the students.

Galyean’s diverse background in a multitude of different sciences interested the students as well as her passion for Star Wars and mountain biking.

Freire had the chance to speak with Galyean via phone call for the assignment and expressed his interest in volcanoes to her, which led the teachers into wondering if they could have a scientist speak in person to their classes.

None of the local scientists who were researched were available to come in, but Galyean from across the country agreed to hold a conversation via Google Hangout.

Two students from each class were able to ask direct questions to Galyean about what made her passionate about science to her interests beyond her day job.

JOHN COLE/ TIMES PHOTOS

Students marveled as one asked Galyean’s response to what her favorite element on the periodic table was.

Galyean explained that silver was her favorite element, because it was her initials “Ag.” She then proceeded to show the class a tattoo she has that includes the elements “Thorium,” “Iodine,” “Nitrogen,” and “Potassium,” spelling out the word “think.”

Galyean explained to students that there are many people in her field who are unique, and that’s what makes science special to her.

“It’s a very common misconception that scientists are all men and scientists all wear lab coats,” said Galyean. “That’s not the case. Scientists come in all colors, all genders, all shapes, all sizes.”

Putting a face and voice to the name in their book really helps the students learn, Sullivan thinks.

“When they got to speak with Dr. Galyean and really understand that she’s just an average person, just like them who likes to bike ride and who has tattoos, that made it more interesting to them and maybe easier for them to reach and inspire them that they, too, can be whatever they want to be.” ••

John Cole can be reached at JCole@bsmphilly.com