Category Archives: Careers

Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Stories of Inspirational Females

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

gifts

For this post I am going to recommend two books.  One is fiction and the other is not.  Both have amazing illustrations.  Both champion scientific discovery.  And both feature strong females who are curious, persistent, and determined to pursue their interests despite costs and sacrifices.

I saw a comment about one of these books where the writer said, “If I had a daughter, I would give her this book.”  That’s fine – but there’s no reason a son shouldn’t receive either of these as a gift.  Yes, we need to increase the number of women in scientific fields.  But that doesn’t mean that we need to exclude males from them.  And, if our belief is that stereotypes should be eradicated, won’t this be helped even more by young men learning about inspiring females and males?

Ada Twist, Scientist
Ada Twist, Scientist

Ada Twist, Scientist is a delightful book by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts about a young girl who exasperates and amazes the adults in her life with her quests to find the right answer.  This picture book is one that I reviewed a few months ago here, and part of a series of brilliant stories about children who refuse to allow life to just happen to them.

Women in Science
Women in Science

Women in Science, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky, has caught my eye on so many “Best Of…” lists that I finally had to order it.  It says quite a bit about my education (and my memory) that I only recognize the names of 4 of the 50 female scientists described in this book.  To be read independently, this book would be best for ages 8 and up.  As a read-aloud, however, I don’t see any reason that parents or teachers couldn’t start earlier – maybe choosing one scientist a day to study.  The graphics, colors, and font of this book separate it from the stodgy biographies that would immediately elicit yawns, and Ignotofsky has done a wonderful job of succinctly describing each scientists contributions in laymen’s terms.

With the upcoming Hidden Figures film and books like these, women in STEM careers are finally receiving real recognition.  None of this negates the amazing feats of men in these fields.  Instead, we are getting a richer picture of our history and more motivation to play significant roles in the future.

Hidden Figures

I suspect that part of the reason that not many minorities enter S.T.E.M. careers may be because we don’t hear enough about the ones who have.  This coming January, Hidden Figures will come to theaters to tell the story of three African-American women who worked at NASA, and helped to propel John Glen into orbit.  You can see the trailer for the movie here.

As part of the promotion for the movie, PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox have teamed up to sponsor a contest for females who are 13 years and older who hope to change the world with S.T.E.M.  The winner will receive a $50,000 scholarship, so if you know a girl eligible to apply please pass this on.

In addition, you can visit the Hidden Figures website to play some S.T.E.M. challenges and read some other inspiring stories about significant S.T.E.M. contributions made by women.

image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/argonne/4534997622
image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/argonne/4534997622

Ada Twist, Scientist

Andrea Beaty and David Roberts have outdone themselves with their latest book, Ada Twist, Scientist.  Beaty (author) and Roberts (illustrator) made their mark in children’s literature with their two previous books, Iggy Peck, Architect, and Rosie Revere, Engineer. Demonstrating the sometimes exasperating, but always creative, personalities of inquisitive and innovative children, these books have become favorites for those who champion maker education and S.T.E.M.  They are also great examples of growth mindset and passion based learning.

Ada Twist, Scientist tells the story of an adorable young girl whose curiosity knows absolutely no bounds.  Her parents fondly support Ada’s intellectual investigations until she decides to throw the family cat into the washing machine in an attempt to find the origin of a terrible smell, at which point Ada is exiled to the “Thinking Chair.”

You will have to read the book yourself to find out how Ada handles her isolation and whether or not she solves her stinky mystery. Suffice it to say that the book has a happy ending and will inspire parents and children to see questions as exciting learning opportunities rather than as time-wasting obstacles.

For a teaching guide and links to other related activities, visit the Ada Twist website.

You can’t resist Ada Twist, Scientist!

image from Ada Twist, Scientist
image from Ada Twist, Scientist

And Don’t Fall in Love with Someone You Hate at Your Job You Don’t Not Like

I have a few friends who don’t like their jobs.  I mean REALLY. DON’T. LIKE.   It seems like it would be really depressing to wake up in the morning and think, “Only 10 more years.  I hope I can make it.”

Don’t get me wrong.  When I get up in the morning, I think, “Only 10 more minutes.  I’m sure I can still make it – maybe if I don’t eat breakfast.”  But then I get up and go to work.  Usually when my husband starts grumbling about me hitting the snooze button too many times.  And some days it’s pretty great, and most days it’s good, and those days usually add up to enough to make me feel like I chose a pretty good career, thank goodness, because teaching stuffed animals wasn’t going to get me as far as I thought when I was five years old.

I read an article the other day about how to fall in love with a job you don’t like.  At first I felt guilty.  “Why am I reading this?” I thought.  “I love my job already – don’t I?”  And then I remembered that I do.  (It’s totally normal to have to remind yourself of this every once in awhile. Trust me.)  But I decided to keep reading so I could see if the advice might help my I. REALLY. DON’T. LIKE.  MY. JOB. friends.

And then I had a revelation.

Guess who else gets up every morning and thinks, “Only 10 more years.  I hope I can make it.”  (If you are a grammar/punctuation Nazi, then perhaps you can tell me if I was supposed to put a question mark somewhere in there.  And if so, where would it go?) Kids who hate school.  For many kids, school is their job, and they REALLY. DON’T. LIKE.IT.

I scanned David G. Allan’s article again, this time with the perspective of a teacher who has a student who hates school.  And I thought, “I. AM. A. GENIUS!” Because every suggestion in the article would probably really help a kid who hates school but has a teacher who wants to help him stop hating school.  It’s all about reframing things.  And, let’s face it – teachers are good at that.

So, whether you hate your job, know people who hate their jobs, or know kids who hate their going-to-school jobs which don’t even pay minimum wage, I highly recommend you read David G. Allan’s article, “Fall in Love with a Job You Don’t Even Like, In Three Steps.

In conclusion, I admit that this was a slightly confusing blog post, somewhat stream of conscious-y, so let’s clear everything up with a short review before we do a formative assessment:

  • I don’t not like my job.
  • I am a genius.
  • David G. Allan should be a teacher.  Or fall in love with one.  Or become a genius.
  • D.  All of the above.

elf

Beau Lotto and Amy O’Toole

While searching for a TED talk for my 5th graders last week, I came across one that I hadn’t seen before.  It was given by Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist, and Amy O’Toole, a 12-year-old published scientist.

scienceisforeveryone

Beau and Amy tell the story of a class of 8 and 9 year-olds and their serious scientific research into the fascinating minds of bees, which eventually became known as the “Blackawton Bees Project.”  During their talk, we learn about the mistaken perceptions that we can have – such as underestimating the abilities of bees to reason and the abilities of young people to make meaningful contributions to our society.  It’s a great video that should inspire adults and children to challenge common assumptions and believe that we can all make a difference in the world.


You can find more inspirational videos for students here.  I also curate inspirational videos for teachers, which are located on this Pinterest Board.

If Money Didn’t Matter…

Powerball tickets can’t be printed fast enough right now.  Everyone has hopes of winning that big prize, of suddenly being in the enviable position of never having to worry about how to pay the bills again.

Many people like to dream about what they would do if they woke up one day to learn they have unlimited wealth.  How would their lives be different?

I feel like I am doing exactly what I have always wanted to do – maybe not with all of the freedom I imagined, but teaching has always been instinctive and fulfilling for me.  It surprises me when people say they never really knew how they wanted to spend their lives and kind of aimlessly went through the motions until they landed in a career.  But I find that is really the majority, and I am more fortunate than I ever would have guessed to be able to identify and live out my passion.

In this video from National Geographic, Alan Watts, a famous philosopher, strongly argues for doing what you love. It’s not necessarily a video I would show to elementary students, but I wish that all high school freshmen could see it.  And I wish that we modeled and supported this whole-heartedly in our educational system…

Alan Watts

Smart Girls Build

I have raved about Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls site several times on this blog.  The work this former Saturday Night Live and Parks and Rec actress/comedian is doing to inspire girls and give them positive role models is phenomenal.  Now the site offers a new video series that pairs girls with the creators of The Sims video game to show how the talents and passions that the girls have can be used in a video game to express themselves and inspire others.

The “Smart Girls Build” series currently has three episodes that showcase dance, music, and photography.  They are relatively short (about 5 minutes each), but give great insight into how The Sims developers pay close attention to detail to make the game include realistic interpretations of each of the girls.

We need more girls to pursue careers in technology, yes.  But, even more importantly, we need them to see that their passion to create is valued and has enormous potential in an infinite number of hobbies and careers.

image from Amy Poehler's "Smart Girls Build"
image from Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls Build”