Social Media Transforms Parents into Science Heroes

By Chris Mooney | January 31, 2011 9:21 am

This is a guest post composed as part of the NSF Science: Becoming the Messenger workshop, Lawrence KS January 28, 2011

Someone told me that social media sites are not useful to scientists, because they’re a haven of stay-at-home moms. Later that night as I was catching up with my friends on Twitter, it dawned on me that stay-at-home moms are an amazing audience to reach through social media for a couple of reasons. First, they are incredible shaping forces in early childhood because they spend much of their time interacting with their kids. Secondly, parents are the ones who have the time to take their kids to the science museum, to help them with science fair, to dig in the backyard for fossils, explain why the sky is blue, or get involved in citizen science.

In order to reach these parents and influence them to become kids’ first science heroes, we have to be willing to package science in understandable and accessible bites. Most parents do not have the time to sort through all of my data and run the kids to soccer practice, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested in what scientists do or what we know. They just need the data digested into a usable format that allows them to be the expert within their families.

For example, EarthCache could make moving across the country to a new duty station more interesting and less taxing for military families. It allows parents to turn a week-long car ride into a memorable geocaching adventure. It also provides a way for kids to connect to a new community and environment as many of these geocaches are located in our own backyards. All of these things can help military spouses ease the transition to a new place for themselves and their kids. Military families are major consumers of social media, tools like EarthCache just need to be easier for them to find.

I believe I am a scientist today because my mother was my science heroine in earliest childhood. I remember how awed I felt, when she stood with me staring up through the rib-cage of a T-rex as a child. I believe social media are an amazing tool to give parents the power to transform into science heroes in every home in America.

~Charity M. Phillips Lander

CATEGORIZED UNDER: science communication
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Comments (6)

  1. Thanks for this. There are enormous opportunities to build bridges between parents and scientists generally and mom bloggers and science bloggers particularly. More soon…

  2. Hey, thanks for the shout-out for The Geological Society of America’s EarthCache Program! Learn more at http://www.earthcache.org/

  3. Charity Phillips Lander

    Kea: I was happy to do so. EarthCache a great program and it is a really great example of how science can create community, especially for military families.

  4. Katrina Philllips

    I agree with this 100%. As a mom and non-scientist, I nevertheless want to educate my children well about the world in which we live and how it works. Making these resources accessible to parents ultimately makes them more accessible to kids, who will be the future decision-makers in our world. I feel that if children learn about the natural world through firsthand educational experience, they will appreciate it more and feel a more personal investment in protecting it, which is particularly important these days as our planet faces imminent environmental collapse!

  5. Liz

    I absolutely agree! As a scientist and stay-at-home mom, I took every opportunity to introduce my children to the science and the world around us. Now I work at a science museum and hope to inspire other moms to do the same. FYI: one son is a physics major and the other is a math major – probably nothing to do with me but you never know…

  6. Carole A. McHenry

    You bring up many interesting points. I was particularly interested in your comments about going to the museum with your mother and looking at the dinosaurs. You may not be aware of the study done by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) in the late 1970’s which basically concluded that children who are exposed regularly to museums throughout their childhood tend to become lifelong supporters of museums. Since museums, for the most part, are basically distilled science, they are a great aid to parents wishing to expose their children to the sciences. Parents do not need to be highly educated to teach their children science in a museum. Museums design their displays and dioramas to be easily understood by both parent and child. The only skill required by parents to utilize and teach science is reading as nearly all displays have placards describing the processes and dioramas depicted. Museums, in a sense, are like the EarthCasches you describe. Like the EarthCasches, they can be found in every state, waiting for parents and children to uncover the science within their enclosures. Many thanks to the author for your enlightened views.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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