Utah News
4:51 pm
Fri July 20, 2012

Trading Cards Show Kids What Scientists Look Like and What Scientists Can Do

The Natural Inquirer is a science journal directed at middle school-aged children, which has come out with its very own trading cards featuring US Forest Service scientists.

The people at the Inquirer found that teachers and students alike benefited from learning about the scientists behind their experiments.

Jessica Nickelson, director of education for the journal, says that children feel that they can identify themselves with the scientists after seeing the pictures and learning about their research:

"It put a real face to science and got kids interested in becoming scientists. We tried to think of a fun way to provide that information and so we came up with the idea for the scientist card series."

Each card includes a photo of the scientist with their education background and career information. It then goes on and talks about their area of expertise and details their research. There is also encouragement for aspiring young scientists.

One Utah State University graduate has her very own trading card as one of the featured scientists. Tamara Heartsill Scalley is a research ecologist who received her PhD from USU in 2005.

"I think the cool thing about these cards is that they show what a scientist does and what a scientist looks like. There are a lot of options and a large range of possibilities in science that you can do."

It took Heartsill Scalley awhile to take the plunge into science. After graduating in social science, she volunteered in a rain forest in Puerto Rico and saw natural scientists working in the field. She realized that there was a whole other side to science, not just people in labs wearing white lab coats. She also realized she could put her love of the outdoors into a career.

"If you can see where the science can take you then you will have the motivation of struggling through that calculus or organic chemistry, which is what turns off a lot people. Once you know what you can do with those courses then you will be able to put into perspective the hard work you need to put in to make it through those courses and then apply what you learn from then to what you want to do."

She offers young minds this encouragement:

"Remain curious about nature and be creative to your approach to asking questions and to answering questions. One thing that you will always be doing as a scientist is putting into perspective what you've learned and trying to fit the little big of knowledge that you're contributing to the greater body of knowledge that's out there."

The Natural Inquirer trading card series hopes to take away some of the intimidation science naturally comes with. Heartsill Scalley wants children not to limit themselves to what they think scientists are:

"You may not see anyone who looks like you but there are all kinds of scientists coming from different cultural backgrounds, different ethnicities. In a way, science will only become stronger when it has equal representation of who we are as a people."

Interested parents and kids who love science can click here to see the trading cards and learn more about the Natural Inquirer.