Girls and science

Finally, finally, finally…Today, I am coming out from under the ravages of the Great Flood of ’09 and getting back to work on my book proposal.  However, I’m taking a break from the action to post here.

On one my favorite message boards,, one of my favorite sister-friends, Yvette, shared the following on a “Black Girls and Science Education” thread:

Many educators worry that the ability of the United States to produce enough scientists will fall short unless a more diverse group of students are recruited to science study — and thrive. Despite the odds, some black females do succeed in science. Swimming Against the Tide: African American Girls and Science Education (Temple University Press) looks at why some students succeed, and the roadblocks they face along the way. The book is based on a combination of statistics, surveys and interviews. Sandra L. Hanson, the author and professor of sociology at Catholic University, responded via e-mail to questions about the book….

Full interview:

…which prompted me to share the following:

My oldest daughter and her female classmates were recently invited to a presentation by a female astronaut, Pam Melroy:

Pamela Anne Melroy (born 17 September 1961) is a retired United States Air Force officer and an active NASA astronaut. She served as pilot on Space Shuttle missions STS-92 and STS-112 and commanded mission STS-120.

Melroy presented awesome pictures and video–inside the shuttle at launch, rendezvous with the international space station, which is also under the command of a female astronaut, space walks, their tiny living quarters, zero-gravity fun, and repairs to the solar array on the space station. Did you know that the shuttles circle the earth every 90 minutes, so they get to see a sunrise or a sunset every 45 minutes? And stars don’t “twinkle” in outer space. What we see as a “twinkle” is caused by the presence of the earth’s atmosphere.

Clearly, the chaperones learned as much as the kids did. ;-)

Melroy challenged the girls, telling them that the next frontier was sending humans to Mars. She and her comrades will be too old to go when that mission is ready to be undertaken. That mission will be undertaken by people who are kids in school today…maybe one of them.

She talked about diversity as well, but she did so in terms of the diverse professional backgrounds that astronauts must have: military, engineering, astronomy, and other fields that just don’t “scream” astronaut; it takes expertise in all these disciplines to build a strong mission team. You can’t really train in college to be an astronaut per se. You have to first be something else, and excel at it, usually at a PhD level. The average age of those entering the program at NASA is 35.

Anyway, the mission’s robotics specialist was a black woman, Stephanie Wilson, and we saw her in action in the video. After Dr. Mae Jemison, I didn’t know any other black women had gone into space.**fighting urge to pitch article about Wilson to a magazine…will return to book proposal now**

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