Geek holidays: recruiting tool for science and math teachers

Animole Kingdom

Q: What are mammoles? A: Four-legged animoles!*

October 23rd was Mole Day–the national chemist’s holiday–that is held each year from 6:02 am to 6:02 pm on this day to honor Avogadro’s number (6.022 x 10^23), which represents the number of molecules in one mole unit of a chemical substance. The National Mole Day Foundation promotes the day to chemist enthusiasts worldwide and awards a biannual Mole of the Year award to an exceptional chemistry educator who exemplifies the spirit of Mole Day.

This year marked my son’s first Mole Day as a high school chemistry student (aka my sophmole :))–a day that every scientist parent looks forward to! We wore matching Mole Day shirts and ate breakfast at 6:02 am to kick off the day (okay, to be honest he was offered extra credit in chemistry class if he celebrated, so I may have taken advantage of the situation!) Additionally, he could bring a project to his third-period class to earn even more credit.

Mole Day also coincides with the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) National Chemistry Week, which is a week-long celebration of chemistry that aims to excite kids about science. As a STEM education enthusiast, I suggested that he design a lesson plan for a science activity to conduct with the preschool students that he cares for during his early childhood development course at the high school. We agreed that he could play a short video of Grover from Sesame Street performing kitchen science experiments and then follow the accompanying instructions provided online for making oobleck, a cornstarch concoction that teaches kids about non-newtonian fluids.

Unfortunately, the idea was shot down by his chemistry teacher who wanted projects that could be brought directly into the chemistry classroom, so instead my son took ‘mole’asses cookies for the project. I understand that the teacher wanted to make the day into a fun celebration, and it is wonderful that he takes the time to share this chemistry enthusiasm with all of his students! However, I feel this situation was a missed opportunity to share science with younger kids and to develop a passion for education among high school students.

Recent articles and programs have focused on the need to improve education models for science and math teachers, whereby teachers master the content of the material that they will teach by earning subject-specific degrees. One source of potential teacher recruits are those high school students who show both an interest in education through courses and clubs (e.g., Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) and an aptitude in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Geek holidays could be used to encourage high school students to engage in education outreach to excite other kids and the public about science and math, while exposing the students to teaching as a profession. Plus, outreach can be an excellent method to reinforce key principles for students who learn by teaching. Visit the ACS websites for National Chemistry Week and Mole Day activities going on throughout the week and ideas for planning events in your local community to promote science education.


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