Paleonet: Outreach for public science literacy

Brent & Diane Ashcraft ashcraft at
Thu Jun 2 04:14:45 GMT 2011

As a teacher of high school aged students, I would recommend teaching the

-You higher academic types, think to your department, and how many education
majors are in there right now?

-Most teachers are not educated in evolution, geology, or paleoecology.  If
they don't know it , they can't teach it.

-Teachers are in contact with your target  population on a daily basis.

-Teachers in high school and lower are given professional development every
year, but it is centered around teaching strategies, not actual scientific
theory they can use in their classroom.  The reason for this is that nobody
is doing advanced professional development in their subject area, too hard
to find somebody to do it, too easy to find some hack educator with an
Education PhD to teach the development classes.


Spent 3 hours yesterday in professional development about how to turn a
smartboard into a worksheet.

Brent Ashcraft


From: paleonet-bounces at [mailto:paleonet-bounces at] On
Behalf Of Mark Storaasli
Sent: Wednesday, June 01, 2011 8:38 PM
To: PaleoNet
Subject: Re: Paleonet: Outreach for public science literacy


Dr. Ward,

  I will suggest that 'science outreach' is a doomed cause if it fails at
the level of
kindergarten-age students. My 5-year old grand daughter's response to Public
Broadcasting System's natural history programming ensures that she will read
the books that you would like to see her reading, including your own, which
will recommend. Our fascination with the molluscan Order Cephalopoda has not

yet fruited, but we are constantly reminded that house cats make many more
mistakes than a typical octopus would be allowed to! 

  If you're not into rock, sand & dirt, pond scum, butterflies & people at
age 3 it's
likely that nothing except numerical/systematic paleontology will ever feel
to the mathematician whiz-kids you imagine? much for collecting rocks!
will have no choice, except to buy them at Tucson!

  Somebody should re-write The Earth For Sam maybe a U.S.G.S. project for
free distribution in multiple copies to any worldwide libraries?

~Mark Storaasli 


On Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 11:48 AM, <argo at> wrote:

At the risk of totally undermining whatever shred of reputation I still have
in being a "real" paleontologist, I would like to make two suggestions.
First, we all know that science literacy in this country is abysmal.
Therefore, the outreach we and other scientists are doing (but most often
not doing) is not working.  I advocate two new approaches.  First, I learned
a great deal of science reading the great science fiction novels of the 50s
and 60s.  We could have an equivalent in video games.  As father of a 14
year old, I can tell you that kids of that age will spend unlimited time on
games if given the chance.  It would be good to get together at GSA and talk
about new ways of getting our paleo message out - including video games.  A
game of evolution where mass extinction sweeps you back to the start of the
game is a natural.  Secondly, in frustration at my meager book sales, my
17th book for the public is a novel.  It is set in both South Africa and the
Tucson gem and mineral show, and involves the tension between academic
paleontologists (and museum curators, who now have to compete for specimens
without funds to compete with) and professional fossil collecting companies
- as well as the current best guess about the cause of the Permian
extinction, and the marks it left in the Karoo.  The hero (heroine) is a
paleontologist.  I am happy to send a PDF of this 105k-word effort to anyone
who would like to critique it.  There is no publisher yet.  In the course of
this effort it became clear to me that a great volume of Uranium found in
Africa was deposited at the PT boundary as a direct result of continental
denudation in the mass extinction itself.  This is certainly the case for
the Niger "yellowcake" which sent us into Iraq, as well as other PT boundary
deposits.   The Permian extinction thus extending into our time, this time
as hydrogen bombs.
Professor Peter D Ward
Dept of Biology
The University of Washington
Seattle, 98195
206-543-2962  ( Office )

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