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dmmetler

Lewelma? Path for a kid who wants to communicate science?

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Anyone have any ideas/paths for a kid who really wants to communicate science and change people's minds?

 

We're at the JMIH now, and while DD is excited about being with other people who are into Herpetology, she's also recognizing that much of the research either is topics that most people will see as irrelevant and a waste of money (that there are differences in joint structure between two closely related groups of geckos) or ones that they will see as a negative if they actually come into play (that turtle mortality from fishhooks models as high as 50%, and therefore, restrictions should be placed on use of baited hooks in areas where turtle species that already have declining populations live). Even the folks focused on conservation tend to be focused on rules and restrictions and controls, not on changing people's minds.

 

She wants to change minds and influence people. She's seen that it can happen when tabling and doing reptile nights and kids events, on a 1-1 basis. But it needs to be more widespread. That's what she wants to do.

 

And, we have basically a blank check at the CC for her to take any classes she wants. She doesn't need to get an AA-she can just take classes and as long as we check the boxes for high school and college entrance, she's good. We can also access a state U down the path. It seems like a good time for her to get the skill set that would enable her to use science studies outside the lab, and that she might not have time to take when she is jumping through hoops in a degree plan. Maybe marketing? Public speaking? What would be helpful?

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Saw you post on dig as well, so I figured I'd take a crack...

 

Social psychology, political science, negotiation, strategic management, and public relations all come to mind.  I find a huge portion of my life now focused on these sorts of challenges (it's my job, after all), and neither my physics nor math backgrounds helped at all.  A little political / sound-byte type of training would have been useful.

 

Teaching, though, has been very helpful.  I learned early on that connecting with a student depends on connecting with a foundation with which they are comfortable.  In convincing a group of individuals of an appropriate strategic path, the same has held true.  I've needed to find a basis which all (or a majority) shared.  Then, I could connect that basis to a vision all could feel a part of.  Only after those two things had connected could I begin to propose tactical paths forward.

 

If I could pick only one path to gaining those skills, I would choose negotiation.  Modern negotiation skills rely on the understanding of a partner (not counter-party!), their basic needs and wants, and how to find mutually happy grounds for both you and the partner.  That creates a partnership - a social structure.  Partnerships can merge, and become movements, but individuals generally cannot create movements.

 

I'm responding off the top of my head, so all of that may not be technically accurate.  Hopefully, you can get the gist of what I am trying to say.  I'd be happy to provide additional insight as able.

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This doesn't answer your specific question, but I was listening to NPR yesterday and heard about this, which may be related to your daughter's interests.

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In my experience with conservation in Nevada, ranchers/farmers/miners had no interest in listening to academics or ivy league intellectuals.  But they would listen to those of us who had first hand experience in their industry.  Our most effective professors and grad students knew and deeply understood the other side because they had worked on ranches.  Issues are complicated with many different parties coming at them from different directions.  They knowledge the ranchers, farmers, and miners had about their environment was profound because they worked the land everyday, but it was not academic so it was all to easy to dismiss.  

 

Given this experience, I would suggest your dd spend some time learning the ways of the people she is trying to convince.  Take some Ag classes and do some internships in their industries.  She needs to get dirty with the people who work/own the land where her animals are trying to survive.  

 

ETA: Environmental Law might also be useful.

 

Edited by lewelma
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The people that our family meet who are doing similar talks / education / instruction are often working for Fish & Game, 4-H, or Cooperative Extension. They serve as a bridge between the target audience and the scientists creating the research, etc.

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I don't think this is a skill that would be limited to science. The art of learning to communicate well is something that is useful across many fields. Are there any homeschool speech or debate or those types of classes available to you? There are groups like STOA for Christian homeschoolers. Communications classes perhaps...something around persuasive speaking or public speaking skills? STO
 

My son did a Jr. Speech class taught by a local veteran homeschooling mom whose son was nationally competitive in speech and debate. She used this book written by Win Heggen. She apparently does coaching via Skype.  http://www.winsomespeaking.com/about/how-to-be-heard-and-remembered/

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The Toastmasters program if a chapter is running one is the Toastmasters Youth Leadership program. They also have a Gavel Club which is Toastmasters for the under 18. A mom in my homeschool group is running one for our group since there was interest for a non-competitive speech option. This is separate from the moms that run the competitive speech and debate club. I am actually think trying to find a Model United Nations program would be really good as well.

Edited by calbear
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I think what DD wants is to be able to both create and communicate the research-but is also starting to realize that researching species declines doesn't do anything unless you can change the situation that is causing the species declines, and that people preserve what they love.

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I am no expert, but, personally, I have been far more educated and impressed by conservation efforts when I have watched documentaries that go in-depth into conservation efforts and how much hard work it takes to rehabilitate certain species in their natural habitats. The most impressive have been marine research related documentaries that I have seen in marine research institutes and then talking to the researchers right after the screening of the documentaries. She already seems social media savvy from your posts. How about suggesting that she take courses on documentary filmmaking? She need not feature in them if she does not want to do so. But, she can produce and narrate and create a youtube channel of her conversation efforts that she is already undertaking.

Edited by mathnerd
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Science writing is a good one. I was a PhD student who found primary research a bit too esoteric after awhile -- working on things almost no one would care about. I have found magazine-style science writing to be more fun and more influential. I love the novelty of being able to dig into a critical issue, read up, interview folks and then write something engaging that educates the public. 

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How about public policy? Apparently, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, USC, Brown, and UC Riverside all offer a major. UCLA offers a minor.

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I like the idea of documentary film making or some technical skills that will help her produce video to ago along with whatever her message will be. She has been introduced to Rachel Carson's work, right? 

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I would say education, journalism, technical writing, and public speaking might be helpful class areas. Based on my interactions with scientists, I'm not sure how much this can be cultivated. Some folks seem completely unable to speak without a ton of jargon. I spend time in my high school class teaching students to interpret scientist-ese. But, many journalists completely overstate the findings of studies or miss the point. There is a real need for people who can translate primary data into something that is accurate and useful to the general public.

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