Ada Twist, Scientist is Now a Television Series!

It has been five years since I first reviewed Ada Twist, Scientist on this blog, and I even recommended it back then for my Gifts for the Gifted list in 2016. The book, which is one in a series of collaborations between author, Andrea Beaty, and illustrator, David Roberts, in the Questioneers Series, is a delightful story about a young girl who embodies the curiosity and experimental personality of a S.T.E.M. hero in the making. Now, Ada and her friends (Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck, who also star in their own books by the dynamic duo of Beaty/Roberts ) are featured in a new animated series on Netflix that officially drops on September 28, 2021 — but don’t despair if you don’t have a Netflix subscription. You and your students can watch two episodes right now on YouTube: “Cake Twist” and “Garden Party.” The adorable cast of characters plus the real-life scientists who appear at the end of each episode will engage pre-school and lower elementary students while showing them how to brainstorm, problem-solve, and deal with mistakes. This mixture of fictional and authentic role models that are brought to you by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, are the perfect inspiration for our next generation of change-makers!

Ada Twist, the book, has a website with teaching materials. (Hey, Netflix or Higher Ground, if you want a teacher to write some materials for the animated series, reach out!) And, don’t forget that I have a Wakelet collection of books for Maker Ed and Design Thinking in case you are looking for more resources!

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Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

What’s Next?

In yesterday’s post, I admitted that I reluctantly left the classroom about 15 months ago because my mental health was suffering dramatically. I was fortunate to be in the position that I had qualified for retirement and that our family could afford this change. This was about three months before the pandemic shut everything down in the United States, and I was congratulated on my prescience by many – despite the fact that I obviously had no idea of what was to come. Though I knew I was fortunate, I found it hard to be thankful because the hardships that unfolded for so many of my colleagues made me feel even guiltier that I had walked out on a career I once loved and people I continued to admire.

Since that time, of course, conditions continued to worsen. Some colleagues have resigned, some others are deciding this will be the last year, and some are actively looking for new opportunities. With demands on teachers increasing – while support either remained the same or decreased – many educators have sadly come to the conclusion that I did – that our system in the United States makes it nearly impossible to maintain a healthy personal/work balance.

I taught for nearly 30 years before I came to the above conclusion, so I am not advocating for teachers to abandon classrooms in droves. But if you have reached the same point in your journey where you feel you are no longer able to do a good job in either your work or your personal life, you may be looking for a change. I saw a post on Twitter where a teacher confessed this, and asked for suggestions. I thought it would be helpful to include the post here.

There were many great responses on the thread, so I want to mention a few here that are outside the usual sites such as LinkedIn:

I hope this post is helpful to anyone who is seeking a new adventure related to education. Students need great teachers now more than ever – but you can’t be great if your mental and/or physical health are suffering.

Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

Find That Lizard!

If you’ve got a budding herpetologist at home or in your class, I would recommend you turn them on to the #findthatlizard challenge on Twitter or Instagram. Self-proclaimed “lizard lassoer,” Earyn McGee produces this visual puzzle on Instagram and Twitter under the handle, @afro_herper. She posts pictures of various lizards in their environments with a few facts, and invites followers to find the lizard in the photo. Since these little guys are so good at camouflage, it’s often not easy. But it’s quite satisfying when you discover them! You can read about the origin story of this friendly competition here. There are also some coloring pages and even cute merch!

McGee, who hopes to host a television show about natural history one day, also has a YouTube Channel. To learn more about Earyn McGee and her important work on conservation and increasing diversity in science careers, read her bio.

And tell me if you legit found the lizard in the above Tweet – because I had to look at the thread for some hints!

Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels.com

YouCanBe ABC’s

Fridays have typically been my day for publishing my weekly anti-racist posts. I almost saved yesterday’s video about engineering for today because I know that we not only have small number of women in STEM fields, but also people of color. But then I saw “Sam’s ABC’s”, and knew it would be a perfect Friday post.

Sam White raps potential careers for each letter of the alphabet in this video. If he doesn’t inspire you to become a gastroenterologist to solve “problems in the gut,” you might want to become a university president and “the future of your nation.”

I have seen too many stories of black students talking about being discouraged from pursuing careers, and spoken to too many high school students who never imagined all of the possibilities out there. Sam already knows at least 26 things “you can be,” and I am certain he is going to be great at whatever he chooses.

For a list of my previous anti-racist posts, click here.

Beauty and the Bolt

According to its vision statement, “Beauty and the Bolt, centered on the idea that Brilliant is Beautiful, aims to make learning engineering easy, inexpensive, and accessible for anyone.”  With that goal in mind, Beauty and the Bolt has: a blog post that lists women who teach STEM on YouTube, a map to find makerspaces around the world, and some fun STEM merchandise.  There are also a few STEM lesson plans.  One of the most expansive resources Beauty and the Bolt offers is its video channel on YouTube, with over 50 DIY and educational videos.

My favorite piece of merchandise on the Beauty and the Bolt site is a 2020 calendar called, “Princesses with Power Tools.”   The calendar features 12 inspiring women who are involved in STEM careers, creatively and colorfully photographed as princesses.  Unfortunately, the site states that it is sold out.  I sent an e-mail to find out if it will become available again, and will update this post if I learn any more details.

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Image by RAEng_Publications from Pixabay

Year of Engineering

Whether you call it STEM, STEAM, or STREAM, engineering is part of each of those acronyms.  In an incredible leap that still surprises me, I found myself teaching Principles of Engineering to students in 8th-10th grades this year.  (I taught elementary school for 27 years before this, for those of you new to the blog.)

After nearly falling asleep reading the course curriculum, I started to hunt for ideas.  There is no textbook; this is all project-based learning.  And just because the subject was new to me didn’t mean that I had to read from boring PowerPoints all year.

During my quest for ideas I discovered a UK site for STEM Learning.  Even more helpful for my specific interests, is the “Year of Engineering” portion of the site, which offers an incredible number of free resources for all grade levels.

Of course, I immediately dove into the secondary resources.  From the initial page, you can narrow down your engineering interest to a particular subject by clicking on a “Choose Your Inspiration” button – which perfectly describes the effect the enormous number of ideas had on me.  My favorite rabbit hole to leap into is the “Engineering in Design and Technology” one, which offers subcategories like “Sports Engineering” and “Humanitarian Engineering.”

You will need to register for a free account if you are interested in downloading any of the lesson plans or activities on the site.  Just give yourself plenty of time to explore each time you visit…

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CC image from Pixabay