Early experiences with science are vital for developing STEM literacy, but also influence a student’s perceptions of science and the work of scientists. A student’s developing perspectives are partly influenced by how this information is presented to them, inside and outside classrooms. Research tells us that children believe that the STEM workforce is composed of men; they rarely describe women or individuals identifying with a minority group when they describe people in science and technology fields. Children also have a limited idea, often shaped by popular culture, of what scientists do. Expanding children’s perceptions of scientists and their understanding of science is a first step in eliminating the stereotypes they have about who is a scientist, who can go into science, and whether they themselves belong to a science career.
SMWV LAB Chats are two-way conversations between scientists and learner groups. Each “chat” lasts approximately 45 minutes and will be hosted by an SMWV Educator. The host will introduce a regional scientist who will discuss their area of interest with students. LAB Chats seeks to cultivate talent, and promote the full inclusion of excellence across the social spectrum, helping students to understand that:
- Scientists are regular people.
- Scientists live nearby.
- Scientists are diverse.
SMWV LAB Chats are intended to be conversations, not lectures. It’s essential that students prepare questions they’d like to have answered by a scientist ahead of time. Scientists should provide information about themselves and what they work on (for example, providing students with links to researcher’s web-page prior to the scheduled “chats” ) so students can prepare. Both students & scientists have the opportunity to learn from one another via conversations that reveal novel perspectives.