Sketchbook Snapshot: illustrating tortoises and hares

“Too much importance cannot be given to drawing, as it is not only an excellent device for securing close observation, but it is also a rapid method of making valuable notes.”

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Inspired by Louis Agassiz, the Harvard Committee of Ten insisted that drawing be an essential part of science education at their institution. While this curricular edict was issued in 1894, it is a learning and research recommendation whose value I rediscover every time I work on the “Ecologically True Story of the Tortoise and the Hare.”

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Right now, I am chipping away at storyboards and draft text for version of the story which will be exhibited at the University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute in Spring 2017. Continue reading Sketchbook Snapshot: illustrating tortoises and hares

Sketchbook Snapshot: Tortoises & Hares in Tanzania

“There’s so much of everything! All of it inextricably tangled together […] To describe is to select – and to select only a microscopic sample from this overwhelming profusion.”

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So wrote travel journalist Michael Frayan in Travels with a Typewriter, one of several books I read during my month-long research trip to East Africa. Frayan distills into two sentences the opportunity, challenges, and complexity of traveling to conduct research, particularly in a new field site.

As I mentioned in my previous update, this was my first trip to Africa. In addition to a mélange of language, landscapes, and villages/cities, the region struck me with its boggling biodiversity, and a host of socio-political situations that resist categorization or outsider resolution. I spent much of the trip mulling over my own reactions to what is ordinary life there, and pondering how to honestly incorporate it in my project without oversimplifying, romanticizing, or otherwise inadvertently appropriating.

Continue reading Sketchbook Snapshot: Tortoises & Hares in Tanzania

Is this SciComm? A book review about a non-science book

I’ve been mulling over the boundaries of #SciComm, in the wake of a book review I published this week on The Volta Blog.

The book I reviewed, Spring Ulmer’s The Age of Virtual Reproduction (Essay Press 2009), is a riveting eloquent set of “meditations on torture, slaughter, and the severity of so many human relationships.”* It is also a book fixated on relentless technological development and scientific discovery (e.g. photography, nuclear weapons).

But, there isn’t any explicit science in the book.

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Continue reading Is this SciComm? A book review about a non-science book

Sketchbook Snapshot: Tortoises and Hares in the Kenyan Highlands

This is my first trip to Kenya, and to Africa more generally. So far, it has been a fascinating blend of rural and urban, English and Swahili (and with it a reminder that learning a language isn’t a one-month project), and wildlife, plants, and landscapes utterly unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

I’ve come to the Kenyan Highlands in exactly the right season. It’s the rainy season, and out of ten days so far, yesterday was the only day without rain. This consistent rainfall makes all the difference for my chances of seeing tortoises. They tend to only be visible this time of year. Continue reading Sketchbook Snapshot: Tortoises and Hares in the Kenyan Highlands

Project Snapshot: Ecological Principles & Children’s Books

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While working on my project on ecological concepts in picture books, I’ve come across some fascinating research about using picture books to teach science.

Here are a couple points that are particularly interesting:

  • Talking animals can confuse children’s understanding of why/how animals do things. (Ganea et al 2014)
  • Children don’t differentiate between fact and fiction unless guided to do so. Books presented by adults are viewed as equally authoritative, and fantasy books can lead to children developing faulty explanations for themselves. (Owens 2003; behind a paywall – contact author for reprint)