I’m a children’s books author, folk artist, and geneticist on a mission to build scientific literacy in children. With a focus on middle grade kids, ages 9-12, I write science-rich stories and create colorful art to lure even the most science-shy youngsters and show them how fascinating and accessible science really is.
Kids need science, we all need science, to solve the global problems we face. My work entertains while educating, empowering the next generation to survive, thrive, and lead in a rapidly changing world.
When I was a child, I never thought I’d be a scientist. I thought science was for geeks who whizzed through their math homework, and that definitely wasn’t me! But I was deeply curious about the universe and wildly creative, two of the qualities that make a good scientist. Who knew? I only wish I’d had a mentor who’d clued me in, early on, before I floundered through my teenage years, struggling to find my path.
Today, by day, I’m a college professor specializing in forensic DNA, helping prepare college students for jobs as criminalists and consulting for attorneys across the country in cases involving biological evidence. By night, I’m a creative sprite, romping in a playground of colors and words.
THE THREE PILLARS OF SCIENTIFIC LITERACY
My creativity flows freely; I never start a project with a plan. Instead, I let the muse carry me where it will. But over the years, three themes have emerged organically, central tenets that I call the three pillars of scientific literacy.
First, children need to know where they are: in an amazing Universe, on a watery planet orbiting a star in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy. They, like all life, arose from stardust, the debris of exploding stars. They are part of a majestic cosmic dance, tiny players in the enormous night.
Second, children need to appreciate their dependence on nature. Alive on a pale blue dot called Earth, they co-evolved with all living forms, from microscopic bacteria to giant sequoias and blue whales. They’re dependent on the web of life that surrounds them and the planetary conditions that make life possible: clean water freely flowing, an oxygen atmosphere, an intact ozone layer, and a “Goldilocks” temperature that’s just right for life to thrive. There is no “Planet B” where we can go if we fail to preserve the precious planet that sustains us. There’s no future for our species if we muddy up our wonderful, watery home.
Third, children need to understand and value the scientific method. It’s the best way we have of learning the truth about our world and making good decisions. Science isn’t simply a collection of facts; it’s a method of formulating questions and listening to the answers, building an ever more accurate and predictive picture of nature and our place in it. Wishful thinking is dangerous, especially in uncertain times. Science lights the path that leads us to a brighter tomorrow.