by Yellow Scope Science Education Consultant, Meghna Pant
Working with Yellow Scope and volunteering as a science educator at Oregon National Primate Research Center has nurtured my passion for promoting science education. I have also come to realize that organizing hands-on activities to stimulate learning does not always require fancy lab equipment.
Living so far away from India, the home I grew up in, I also aspire to give back when I can. Thus, armed with scientific knowledge and few basic supplies, I decided to initiate some sort of outreach activity during my vacation in India this year.
When Kelly and Marcie heard about my plans, they generously donated a Yellow Scope Acids, Bases and pH kit along with extra supplies to support my cause. What unfurled was an enriching, as well as a humbling experience, for me. Read on to learn more about my outreach story.
I am thankful for the day my parents decided to settle down in this village after retirement! Understandably, the factors that contribute to the beauty of this place – its isolation - also limit the educational and employment opportunities.
If families have the money, there are plenty of excellent residential and day schools scattered throughout the region. However, most families cannot afford these private schools. They rely on the affordable government schools, which are doing their best to educate the students, but would do even better with extra funding or other resources.
The educator in me decided to explore running a pilot science program at one of these government schools – Rajkiya Inter College, Naukuchiatal, for grades six to twelve.
I knew I needed the support of the teachers if I wanted my small outreach activity and future projects to materialize. My father, a retired professor of electrical engineering, arranged for me to meet with the school principal and teachers.
I floated my idea of incorporating hands-on science activities in the classroom and proposed a set of acid-base chemistry experiments. They were very interested and we decided that the middle school students would benefit the most from this activity. The date and time were fixed and I came away from the meeting feeling encouraged and happy!
The preparation and execution of this outreach activity was more challenging than I initially thought – even with my PhD experience and writing curriculum for Yellow Scope. The language of instruction in this school was Hindi, which is the official language of India. Even though I grew up in North India and speak Hindi at home, I have never studied science in Hindi.
In school, I studied science in English, and while this helped me easily transition to grad school in USA, it’s a little embarrassing when I view it from a cultural perspective. I had to look up what Acids and Bases are called in Hindi. Acid = “Aml (um-la)” and Base = “Kshar”. These two words have now possibly become two of my favorite words in Hindi.
Around 50 unsuspecting children waited for me in the practical lab. They had no idea why they had been called away from their normal classes, but I am sure they were happy about it. There were almost equal numbers of boys and girls in the class. While the teachers explained to the students why I was there, I prepared the samples to test for aml and kshar.
Before starting the experiment, I did a quick background knowledge check. “Do you know what Aml is?” Few answered, “It taste sour”! “What about kshar?” “It tastes bitter!” “But, how can you tell them apart without tasting?” No answer. “Well, I will show you how you can tell them apart using color changes!”
Interest, amusement and curiosity - I saw it all on their faces. These students had never before done any hands-on science experiments!
I demonstrated how lemon juice turns pinkish-red when you add red cabbage powder solution to it. They were amazed to see that the white laundry detergent turned greenish-blue on reaction with red cabbage solution.
However, I think the thing that piqued their curiosity the most was the red cabbage itself! They took my word for it that cabbages in the United States can be red in color; in India they are only green!
I had foreseen this problem (not being able to buy red cabbages in India for future experiments) and prepared another pH indicator from a kind of black bean, locally known as “bhatt”. This indicator turned pinkish red when mixed with acids and brownish-green when mixed with bases.
We divided the students in groups of five and set them up with a 6-well plate and a dropper pipette. The wells of the plate contained vinegar, lemon juice, laundry detergent and window cleaner. I went around with the pH indicators (red cabbage juice and bhatt juice) and asked every student to add indicator to one of the wells using the dropper pipette. Then I asked them to tell me what they had aml or kshar - acid or base?
By the end of the activity, the whole room was filled with the words aml and kshar. Even when the students cleaned their plates and left, the words stayed with me. I hope the students will think of them too whenever they see laundry detergent or eat bhatt.
Overall, this outreach activity was a great learning experience for everyone - students, teachers and me. I now have a better understanding of the scientific background of these students and the resources available to them. I have also been meeting with higher education professionals to discuss steps that can be taken to further promote science education in this region. I am excited about the future!
I am grateful that I was able to share my first outreach experience in India with you all. Who knows if this was the first of many?!
I am grateful to the principal and teachers of Rajkiya Inter College, Naukuchiatal, for allowing me to conduct this activity with their students. I would also like to thank my parents who helped me put my outreach plans into action. And a big shout out to Kelly and Marcie at Yellow Scope for donating supplies that made this activity possible!
Meghna Pant, PhD
Yellow Scope Science Education Consultant
Thanks to your support, Yellow Scope has been selected as a FedEx Small Business Finalists for 2017. Thank you Yellow Scope community and thank you FedEx! Check out this video we made with their great team!
Thanks to your support, Yellow Scope has been named a 2017 American Small Business Champion by SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, with the support of Sam’s Club.
Together you voted for us more 7000 (!) times - confirming what we already knew - our Yellow Scope community is the best!
SCORE is rewarding us with a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, specialized training, publicity, and business mentoring. See the full list of the 102 American Small Business Champions here!
We are now in the running to win one of three additional $25,000 grand prizes! This summer, a judging panel of small business experts will select three Grand Champions from the group of 102 Small Business Champions to be announced September 14 at the SCORE Awards Gala. (Fingers crossed!)
You can help us get closer to this goal by sharing our good news on social media using the #bizchampion hashtag.
In celebration of our Championship win, we're offering 10% off any order from our online store through Monday April 3, 2017. Use code BIZCHAMPION.
At Yellow Scope, we're committed to empowering girls and closing the gender gap in science!
Marcie, Kelly and the Yellow Scope Team
It’s Valentine’s Day! A day all about appreciating the ones we love, which can include giving gifts, having special meals, and spending time together. But none of those would mean as much without a big ol' hug!
Hugs from loved ones and friends make us feel good - we feel more connected and supported. But the benefits don’t stop there.
Science tells us that hugs can actually make us healthier.
For example, hugs make us less stressed. Now, we think of stress as a bad thing, but evolutionarily it’s really quite ingenious. The hormones released during stress help us to be at our peak in fight or flight situations, like running from a lion (back in the old days). Our heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, muscles get energized, and you even think more clearly.
Most of us aren't trying to escape from lions nowadays. Today stress is more likely to be the day to day worries we carry around with us.
Neurologist Robert Sapolsky says, "For 99 percent of the beasts on this planet, stress is about three minutes of screaming in terror after which it’s either over with or you’re over with. And we turn it on for 30-year mortgages.”
The effects of having our bodies bathed in stress hormones long term are devastating. Along with increased heart rates and prolonged high blood pressure, other nonessential systems get turned off, like your digestion, growth, and notably, your immune system.
When your body is always in high gear, the risks go up for diabetes, digestion issues, heart problems, and susceptibility to illness.
The challenge is to find ways to turn off those stress signals and give our bodies a break. Valentine’s Day is a chance to try out one of the best ways – hugging.
Turns out hugs reduce stress both directly, and psychologically. The benefit of hugs may seem obvious on an emotional level, but let's take a look at the science too:
It's an acid, it's a base ... it's pH Girl!
Faster than a chemical reaction,
Able to turn cabbage into a scientific tool...
Meet Isabel, otherwise known as pH Girl!
When curiosity strikes, Isabel dons her goggles and cape, and in a flash transforms into ... pH Girl!
Fueled by the power of Hydrogen, pH Girl is always on the lookout for acids and bases. Whether she's planting hydrangeas in the garden, polishing her safety goggles, or baking cupcakes, she can tell you the pH of everyday items faster than you can say "pipette"!
Did you know that pH stands for the power of Hydrogen?
Hydrogen is an element, one of the building blocks of everything in the universe. Scientists use a piece of equipment called a pH meter to measure the amount of hydrogen ions (H+) in a liquid. This tells them whether the liquid is an acid or a base. Strong acids have lots of H+ ions, weak acids have less, and bases have even less.
If you don't have a pH meter, you can approximate pH using chemical indicators. Red cabbage is a natural acid-base indicator. Pigment chemicals in red cabbage change color when they mix with acids and bases. Red cabbage juice turns red or pink when mixed with acids, and blue or greens when mixed with bases. Pretty cool, right?
To do some fun acid-base experiments at home, check out our new Acids, Bases & pH Kit. With pH Girl as their lab partner, girls will have fun uncovering the mysteries of acids and bases all around them! The detailed and creative lab notebook outlines 19+ new and exciting chemistry experiments - with plenty of supplies and ideas for girls to design their own.
So grab your test tubes and get ready to explore your world!
GIRL SCOUTS TEST NEW YELLOW SCOPE KIT
Last week, Yellow Scope got to test out some ideas for their much anticipated next kit! And what better focus group than a local Girl Scout troop? Thirteen girls from Portland Oregon had a blast with Marcie and Kelly’s newest idea: testing acids and bases.
Marcie and Kelly could barely get through their introduction before the girls eagerly interjected to share their own experiences at science fairs or home experiments.
One had tested the pH of different soil types provided by her landscaper mother; another worked with dry ice.
When Kelly mentioned her love of high school dissection, the groans of disgust were overpowered by shrieks of excitement: "That sounds so fun!"
“We won’t be doing any dissecting today”
“AWWW!” rang the crowd.
Marcie and Kelly told the girls our culture thinks that science is for boys - how silly is that? “We want to change that message and show the world that girls are just as capable.” So let’s do this thang.
Marcie asked the girls what they associated with the word ‘chemical’?
“Non-organic food,” said one. A true Portland response. A general negative association was agreed upon. But Marcie and Kelly had chemicals’ back, and explained that we are all made of chemicals, in fact, everything on Earth is made of chemicals!
Now, what about the word ‘acid’?
“Citrus, like fruit.”
“I got citrus in my eyes once, it really hurt!”
Pretty on point really. Marcie and Kelly then talked a bit about the opposite, bases, then the fun began. And what is more fun than making things change color?
THE SETUP FOR THE YELLOW SCOPE EXPERIMENT
Turns out the liquid from a boiled red cabbage is a great indicator of acids and bases. A chemical in the cabbage called anthocyanin turns different colors when mixed with acids versus bases. The girls cut their own slivers of the underrated vegetable - the tedious boiling was skipped, cooking show style - and they were given the end product of the cabbage 'juice'.
The girls moved to the experiment tables and all got to add the cabbage juice to various liquids, like window cleaner and detergent. First though, like good scientists, they made hypotheses and wrote down their predictions.
Soon paint palettes were filling with liquid testing, and the girls got some good lessons about contamination. Woops. It’s okay, all was salvageable.
NOW TO THE pH SCALE
After supporting or disproving their hypotheses on which liquids would be acids or bases, they tested where the liquids fell on the pH scale.
pH test papers were passed around in a flurry of nail polished fingers and color matching sheets.
It was a bit of a chemistry chaos convention there for a while, as the excitement over color changing and pH diagnosing sparked debate and further experimentation.
They learned some new vocabulary like anthocyanin, chemical, acid/base, pH scale, and pipette.
There were surprising colors, smells, and results...
Afterward, celebratory science cupcakes (made by troop member Piper!) and vegetables in the shape of a human skeleton were distributed among the future scientists, but the talk of science and environmental interest didn’t stop. I kid you not, I heard one group discussing signs of pollution and endangered species.
I do think I can at least offer this word of advice before you bestow your girls with the next kit: stock up on red cabbage (and by stock up we mean buy one red cabbage, which is ‘stocking up’ in the cabbage world.)
(photos by Chelsea Schuyler,
shown by permission from parents)
We want girls to have all the opportunities that the world presents. Opportunity is one of the reasons we are passionate about keeping girls interested in STEM. It’s probably common knowledge that jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) often pay well, and that many STEM fields are growing. But did you know that the average wage for all STEM occupations is $85,570, nearly double the average for all occupations ($47,230)? AND, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, only five out of the 100 STEM jobs have wages below the average for all occupations.
Here is a list of the highest paying STEM jobs from the U.S. Department of Labor
A lead character in an animated movie that's a girl? Hollywood science that is relatively accurate? It sounds like INSIDE OUT might possibly be the must-see movie this summer. Historically, to be a female lead in a mainstream American animated movie, the unspoken rule has been that you had to wear a crown. Now “Inside Out,” Pixar’s new release, will introduce the studio’s first non-royal female lead. Riley is a regular kid whose emotions (embodied by Amy Poehler -- OMG Amy Poehler! -- Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black and Phyllis Smith) are thrown into tumult when her family moves to a new city, and she begins to grow up. This is big news considering the dearth of female characters in the studio’s output: one lead in 14 movies, before this one. However, we were a little disappointed that none of the movie posters feature Riley. It seems that Pixar was not ready to feature a non-royal female lead in their marketing materials. Hmmmmmm.
We are definitely excited about the science that will be in the movie. According to NPR, the filmmakers get a lot of scientific details right. Inside Riley's head, you see memories get locked in during sleep, experiences transformed into abstractions, and guards protecting the subconscious.
Opening June 19th. #InsideOut #AmyPoehler #OMGAmyPoehler #Bechdel #GDIGIM
Bill Nye the Science Guy expressed his thoughts at the Toshiba USA /National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision on the need for gender inclusion in STEM, saying, “Half the humans are girls and women, so we want half the engineers and scientists to be girls and women.” We love you, Bill Nye.
Read full article at the Amy Poehler's Smart Girls page here: http://amysmartgirls.com/bill-nye-encourages-young-science-gals-and-guys-at-national-science-competition/
At the end of 2014, we ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise capital to get Yellow Scope up and running. And we're happy to report that we were successful! We surpassed our goal of $25,000 by over 30%. Thanks to all of our amazing Kickstarter supporters for backing us at the very start. We've just finished fulfilling our Kickstarter orders in the past month. And now we are open for business here on our website. We're posting content from our Kickstarter page here in case you missed it. There's lots of good information about our mission and our product. Thanks for checking it out.
"Science is not for girls." That's the wrong message for our girls to hear. We know that inside every girl is a scientist, but over time, girls pick up on societal cues that tell them that science is not for them - it's for boys. This message is reinforced in the toy aisle, where chemistry and physics kits are marketed to boys and pseudoscience "spa" kits are marketed to girls.
In 4th grade, most girls say they like science. But by 8th grade this number drops dramatically as girls lose confidence in their ability to do science. This trend continues beyond school. Although women make up 48% of the total workforce, they make up only 24% of science jobs.
At Yellow Scope, we want to build girls' confidence in science before they fall off the curve. Research shows that girls learn best when they can approach projects in a creative and open-ended way. That's why we designed our kits to engage both the scientific and creative minds of girls. The experiments are rigorous, and there is plenty of room for girls to draw their observations and doodle their ideas in their very own lab notebook.
STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. There has been a lot of talk about the gender imbalance in STEM and the "leaky pipeline" - a term used to describe the loss of girls and women at every step along the path to STEM careers. We want to fix the leak early, while girls are still confident and enthusiastic about science.
We dare you to Google "science kits for girls" images. Go ahead, open another window and do it. We did this the other night, and here's what came up:
There are a couple of good kits that come up in the search -- including Roominate, which is a really great toy (go Alice and Bettina!) And we're really excited that our kit showed up. However, take a look at the overwhelming majority of the science kits that are targeted specifically at girls. This is what the toy aisle offers our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, and friends. The world may tell girls that they can be anything and do anything. But the real message is that they should focus on their appearances, and that rigorous science is not for them.