Science, Summer, Dads and Daughters

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“We use a lot of liquid nitrogen. We blow a lot of things up.”

You’ve got to love a conversation that includes those two sentences, right? They’re from Linda Abraham-Silver, the president and executive director of the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. We were talking about science and summer and GeekDads and daughters.

“Science phenomena compels people to be interested,” she went on, “and once you spark people’s curiousity, they’re interested in learning more.” (She’s proof of that, by the way: Had very little interest in science as a kid, but did archaeological field work in Greece and paleoanthropological work in Spain during college, which landed her at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.)

Photo: Sally Ride Science CampsPhoto: Sally Ride Science Camps

Photo: Sally Ride Science Camps

You don’t have to do much looking to witness the push – especially over the last decade – to get more girls interested in some of the traditionally geekier career pursuits. The Carnegie Science Center’s Girls, Math & Science Partnership (which founded BrainCake) just launched a new career advising program aimed at “allowing girls to freely explore these non-traditional careers fields on their own terms, with the idea that as women they can change the world by using science,” according to executive director Jennifer Stancil. And it doesn’t seem like there’s a shortage of summer science camps geared toward girls, ranging from the Sally Ride Science Camps to programs at universities all over the place.

Ms. Abraham-Silver and I talked about this, too: (For what it’s worth, of the science museums in the 20 most populous U.S. cities, four are led by women.) You see a lot of girls opting out of science and math (starting in) the middle school years, and it’s something we need to be really conscious of,” she said. “We’ve got a summer camp that’s only four years old, but we saw a lot more boys than girls register in those camps. Once we recognized this was a trend, we started adding some girls-only science classes. And we’ve tried to make those appealing: They’re built on a solid science basis, but we do spa science.”

I’ll admit that the last bit, about making things like lip gloss and learning how and why it works, sounded a bit fluffy for my tastes, but just because I don’t think my kid would go for it doesn’t mean I think it’s a bad idea. I absolutely understand the “Whatever gets them interested” attitude.

Besides, there’s always the GLSC’s upcoming Father’s Day weekend “Extreme Science Night,” which will feature exploding watermelons, indoor fireworks, and a visit to the steamship William G. Mather‘s engine room. Sounds like a great father-daughter day: So you can have your lip gloss and blow it up, too.

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