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How to get more people in the community interested in math and science?

  1. Mar 20, 2012 #1
    I want to get more people to appreciate or be interested in science and math in my community college. Anyone have an idea?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2012 #2
    Ahhh, that might be a big task. I went to community college and though there were some very bright people there, most had zero interest in anything academic.

    Does your school have clubs? What about a MESA program?
  4. Mar 20, 2012 #3
    Well you'll first have to undo the damage their highschool education has done to them :tongue2:

    I think that most peoples disinterest or aversion to maths and science is 100% because of how it is taught a lot of the time

    Your best bet would be to just present them with the concepts and ideas. Surprisingly quite a lot of people where I live have become interested in physics because of those Symphony of Science music videos, try showing them those!
  5. Mar 20, 2012 #4
    At the community college that I attended, there was an initiative to increase the amount of students that transferred to 4-year schools in the sciences. To this end, a group of professors held monthly meetings where speakers came to talk about transfer opportunities at their schools and current/past students spoke and answered questions about their transfer experiences and, in some cases, about research they did in collaboration with a local liberal arts college. I think after I left they even offered tours of local schools and biotech/pharma companies.

    This effort has succeeded and the enrollment in that school's "Liberal Arts Transfer - Science Option" Associate's Degree program has skyrocketed. Also, as an anecdotal piece of evidence, I still tutor there and see many more students coming for help in science than a year and a half ago when I moved over from tutoring writing. While not perfect, I think those two metrics could be used as a proxy for "increased interest in science and math."

    I believe the key in getting community college students interested in science and math is relating it to career outcomes. From my experience, only a minority of students attend community college "just because." Most of these students are interested in either earning a quick credential to start a career or know they want to end up in a 4-year program later. If you can present science and math at the community college level as helpful for later on, as something they can achieve instead of defaulting to a certificate or 2-year degree program, their true interests will come out. I've seen this happen in allied health students that have switched to science once they knew it was a "real" option for them.
  6. Mar 20, 2012 #5
    Well we have a biology club, a psychology club, and, I'm the vice-president of the science & engineering club. Those are the three science-oriented clubs.

    I was thinking, I can make it my task on the side to reach out of the community as part of the science and engineering club-- doing things here and there. Or I can make a whole new club designed for the purpose of reaching out and getting more people to appreciate science. The third option would be to make a new club for learning enthusiasts, and reach out to the community as a side-goal.

    I can present them with concepts and ideas, I do it on a regular basis in the science & engineering club. But I would be afraid for the long-term prospect of reaching out to the community, because not many are good public-speakers and really appreciate science-- and I would be afraid that things might die down after I leave.

    Those symphony of science videos are amazing! The one thing that I'm concerned with showing people videos is the copyright issue. I don't want to get my college a big lawsuit.
  7. Mar 20, 2012 #6
    I like the fact that there was a collaboration with a local community college.. I would love to push something like this for my college because it has 0 prospect for research. Any ideas/advice here on how to go about doing this?

    Good to know that the monthly meeting had a sizable impact. I only wish that I can do something to that affect because getting more people to appreciate science is actually very important to me.

    That is actually a very good piece of advice! Career prospect is a big motivation. I'm not completely sure how I will go about doing this at the moment but I'll give it some thought.
  8. Mar 20, 2012 #7


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    It's nice to want to present people with things and reach out, but the problem is that you probably can't push an interest in science/math on people just like a theater or art major isn't going to be very successful pushing an interest in the arts on me. By the time people are in college, they already have their interests and dislikes pretty much squared away. The only reason your club probably works is because you're getting the people who already have an interest.

    Your probably wasting your time unless you can reach out beyond the college and into high schools or elementary schools. Our university has run a very successful outreach program that targets K-12. Of course, it requires funding, university approval, a couple of professors convincing the dean to give them work units for doing this, etc. It's very doable though. Our program went from nothing to being at a new school every week within about 1 year and next semester is already quickly booking up.
  9. Mar 20, 2012 #8
    I think I would start by heading down to whatever your version of Advising and Counseling is and talking to someone about what the current transfer opportunities are. My CC had "articulation agreements" with area colleges and universities that were basically a 2-year plan whereby "you take these courses at the CC and otherwise get accepted to us, we'll make sure you start here as a junior." If your college has these agreements in the sciences with other schools, finding out who coordinates these programs and talking to them is a good place to start. Ask them and some of your professors if anything is being planned to maintain or increase the number of students transferring in the sciences. There is often more talk in meetings than you're aware of as a student. If there is an initiative in the works, ask what you can do to help! (Or if there isn't, plant the idea that they should start one..)

    Good Luck!
  10. Mar 20, 2012 #9
    Like Jorriss, I also went to a community college and even though they Chemistry and Physics shows to try to peak interest in students it usually turned out to be 5-10 students awkwardly watching the show. It was pretty discouraging.

    When I transferred to a university I was more than surprised to see how many people enjoyed going to these things. For the physics seminars at my university they reserve a large lecture hall and sometimes that even fills up even more than capacity. Personally, I would wait until you get to a university to do event planning.

    P.S. - I recommend discouraging students from getting into math/science that way you'll have less competition when you apply for grad school or a job. :wink:
  11. Mar 20, 2012 #10


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    What about a writing a column for your college's newspaper?

    I've always felt that science gets far too little coverage in popular media. One way to change that is for people who care about it to start writing about it.
  12. Mar 20, 2012 #11
    Well, your right that people are less susceptible to different avenues as they grow up. My main goal isn't to change peoples' major-- even though I would love that. My main goal is to spark an interest in others towards science/math and to get them to ask questions.

    I wanted to make it a part of my community college because that way I can easily get funding. I'm not too sure if I'd be able to get funding to reach out to other schools. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for it; in fact, I once considered offering free group tutoring to my local high school but realized that there would be too much demand to keep up with. But if you have some perspective on what to do/how to go about doing it then go for it; otherwise, the thought of reaching out to a different school makes me feel even more overwhelmed.
  13. Mar 20, 2012 #12
    Very good idea, I just asked someone if they have a college newspaper. I'm under the belief that there isn't one--but I could be wrong.

    I'll do just that, thank you.

    But why wait till I get to a university? I think the students in community colleges are more in need of inspiration, for lack of better words.
  14. Mar 20, 2012 #13
    Why would you want to? There aren't any incentives in going into math or science, unless one is truly interested in it. To actually have a career in math or science, you often have to stay in school for 10+ years after high school, and even after all of that schooling, job prospects are poor as there are typically many post-doctoral fellows competing for so few academic positions.

    With this terrible outlook for future mathematicians and scientists, why would you want to encourage more people to go into these fields, when they are already saturated enough?
  15. Mar 20, 2012 #14


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    Like others have said, pushing something on someone else usually doesn't turn out well and if you can do this kind of thing you should be a salesman of the door to door type ;) [But I wouldn't buy your product, sorry].

    But seriously if people aren't interested in mathematics then they aren't interested.

    What I've found is that if people are interested no matter how small, they usually gravitate towards an environment that nurtures and develops their interest. If its mathematicians then if the interest is strong they gravitate towards universities and study mathematics. If it's car racing, then they meet people who race cars and probably spend a lot of their time learning about how to replace parts and so forth.

    If people aren't interested enough then they will not have gravitated towards a particular thing. If people want to know about say even pop-science they will go to google and search for pop-science and get hits on Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku and probably go out to the bookstore and order the book or go to youtube and search for something and watch a video.

    If you want to really do this kind of thing you should think of how to do it in ways that are not intrusive. So things like putting ads on notice boards and on the appropriate section of university websites are better than more intrusive techniques.

    Also you should think about organizing events, doing lectures, writing a blog and doing those kinds of journalistic activities keeping in mind who your audience is.

    For the above it would help if you did some public speaking and Toastmasters is a good place to do that which has chapters all over the world and in many of the universities as well so I would strongly suggest you get into something like this and even pilot some of the ideas in your speeches in which you will get feedback from more experienced public speakers.

    I think you have good intentions but again I absolutely stress not to do it in an intrusive way: if no-one really wants to know about math at your CC, then you have to respect their wishes but even if that happens, why limit yourself to just your CC? With the internet you have a world wide audience :)

    Good luck with it though if you decide to pursue it all the way.
  16. Mar 20, 2012 #15
    What I found is that you start by figuring out what people are already interested in, and then fit what you want them to be interested in, into what they are already interested in. If someone is interested in race cars, then you can get them interested in physics by showing how physics is important in racing strategy. Conversely, I got really in NASCAR once someone pointed out how much physics is involved.

    The other thing is that a huge amount of interest in science comes from fiction. You might have better luck getting interest in science by starting a Star Trek club than a physics club.
  17. Mar 20, 2012 #16


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    That's a good idea. Or a rocket club, or a trebuchet club (who wouldn't want to chunk a pumpkin?).
  18. Mar 20, 2012 #17


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    That's pretty much just understanding your audience which is what you learn in a decent public speaking learning environment. I only said one sentence about this but I did mention it none the less.
  19. Mar 20, 2012 #18


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    First off, we're talking about generating interest, not railroading people into a career they don't want.

    Promoting science in popular culture has all sorts of benefits - both for scientists and society as a whole. People fund what they are interested in. They make private donations, they raise money through events, they write letters to politicians, they vote, and so a society with an interest in, and a better appreaciation of science in general will ultimately be one with more funding for research.

    Even if you don't insipire people to pursue string theory as a career, you may get enough of their attention to get them to think, "Hey, that's neat." You may inspire them to think critically about the claims of the latest gadget, or to read up on climate change, or even just hold in higher regard the guys who spend their Friday nights in the lab.
  20. Mar 21, 2012 #19
    It won't be intrusive at all. Its an invitation-type of thing. The students who attend will be the ones who are there because they want to listen to what will be said.

    Hmm, there is a lot of meat in that one sentence. :biggrin: Can you elaborate on that? And are you saying to do this ahead of time or when I start the organization?

    Thanks, effective communication is very important to me actually. There is a Toastmaster club 5 blocks away from me.. sweet. I gave it a call and the next meeting is April 3rd.

    Well the thing is, I won't be limiting myself to math or any particular subject. The aim of the organization is actually to get people to start appreciating critical thinking, the complexity and intricacy of nature (which includes social and natural sciences), etc. I should have elaborated beforehand but I didn't because my ideas are still in the developing stage really-- I still have to worry about how I will go about doing everything.

    I would like to pursue it as much as possible, for a really long time I always wanted people to appreciate the world out there, whether its through social/natural science, math, philosophy, arts, etc. Using the internet is a very powerful and effective way to get ideas across, I should definitely take advantage of it. I wanted to start a blog before, but never took action. I've matured a bit since then, so I'm determined to take the initiative.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  21. Mar 21, 2012 #20
    Like I said before, my main goal is to get people to appreciate or be interested in science and math. This includes logic as well because its the basis of math and science. So its a pretty broad goal; and a flexible one too.

    I asked, we don't have a college newspaper. However, I will talk to student activities to start a link on the college website where students can express themselves through articles or other means. I already have a professor who volunteered his time to get it started.

    Hmm, I will keep that in mind.

    An aside-- my previous essay was way too materialistic. You were right, and I realized it the more I learned about the different philosophies.


    What you stated is very important actually, and I haven't really thought about it that way. To add to what you said, a more informed / intellectual society will be a better society.
  22. Mar 21, 2012 #21


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    That's great! :)

    For the audience part, I think twofish gave some really good examples of that. Knowing your audience will help you basically think about what you are going to talk about (what examples you use, the content you use), how you talk (like the language you use for example, how you end up presenting things) and how it all ties together.

    It's a very subtle thing because we all have different viewpoints, interests, values and so forth and because of that it makes communication very challenging because it needs to be taken into account and this relates to the audience that you are communicated not only too, but also with (remember it's a two way process not unidirectional).

    In terms of the other things, this has more to do with the medium than anything else. The mediums I presented are different in their benefits and non-benefits and using a variety of mediums can be useful for different things.

    For example lectures are great for bi-directional activities either during the lecture or after an initial presentation has been made and it provides the kind of human experience by having people in the room.

    Blogs on the other hand have different benefits. Unlike lectures anyone can read them at any time they wish which provides great convenience and although you can put lectures on youtube, you can't get the potential interaction that the read audience gets when they are in the lecture hall physically.

    This is the point of using different mediums: they have advantages and disadvantages but then again there really is no one-size-fits-all thing in life IMO anyway.

    I've been a member of Toastmasters for a little over two years and I can say that it provides a lot of learning in each 2 hour weekly session that I go to. If you find a club that has some very experienced members with enough diversity, I think you'll want to stay on.

    One piece of advice I want to give you is to not make things too broad: start off specific.

    If you end up doing presentations, you want to only talk about a few things. If you make it too broad then people will most likely not understand what you're getting at, possibly get confused and your hard work will not have the impact it should have had if you did it slightly differently.

    Each presentation should only focus on a couple of things and those things should be easily digestible in terms of complexity for your audience. What you will have to do is to have a theme based on the simple points that you will be presenting in which you explore the theme in a way that is relevant to your audience.

    The point will be to reinforce these few concepts all throughout the presentation. You will refer to same underlying focus time and time again, but each time will be from a new perspective, viewpoint, or example. You will tell the audience what the presentation is about at the start of presentation and you will remind them after in different ways.

    Just take it in steps. Do one thing at a time and at some point things will make sense for your goal. Just remember that what you are basically becoming if you become what you are saying is a kind of journalist, and it makes sense that you look at journalism in some form or another and see what good journalism and bad journalism is for your specific cause.

    I'm not saying to study it at university or anything: I think that's over the top. But what I am saying is that the next time you read say a popular science article by the BBC or Reuters, or have a chat to a non-technical friend about science or any of that, then pay attention to what's going on. Pay attention to the language used, to the theme, to all parts of the content and the presentation.

    You might not think what you are doing is journalism, but from what you have described in terms of your cause it certainly gets close to the line if not crossing it. You probably won't be writing for your local paper, radio station or TV news station, but you are informing people in an organized way and to me that constitutes enough to be journalistic.
  23. Mar 21, 2012 #22
    On the other hand, there are lots of land mines here. If you aren't careful you can very easily leave people with negative views of scientists and science. Because science relies very heavily on expertise, it's very easy to come across as condescending and arrogant. It's also easy to over-promise things. If scientists promise utopia, than at some point it's got to deliver.

    Also, if your purposes are financial and political, it's very easy to get people to get cynical about things.

    Or you may well get people to do the opposite, and different people will react in different ways. Part of effective communications (and it's also a good education) is to be able to understand how someone else reactions differently to something.

    (String theory is a curious example, because a lot of people with physics backgrounds including me aren't particularly impressed by it.)
  24. Mar 21, 2012 #23
    One thing that you might want to do instead of talking about "the community" figure out which community you are talking to.

    One of the good things about organizing something is that you get people with the same interests in the same room. Even if you can't impress the world, if you get into a situation where you have five or six people with similar interests that are working on the same things, you can get a lot done.

    It's also interesting because technology is changing the rules. For example, it used to be that with a small group gathering you could talk more freely about your own views, but with cheap camera phones and youtube, people have to start being more careful about what they say in a lecture to strangers.

    It's also the case that people are figuring out what the rules are in technology. For example, if you have a private conversation with someone, and it turns out that they are secretly recording you and then they post that to youtube, this is widely considered rude and evil and the person recording will get into more trouble that you will. If people are giving a lecture to 20000 people, then recording it is OK. I don't think we've established the dividing line between private and public.

    So how to use new technology is quite interesting, and it's basic social research. There are also generational issues. I don't have a facebook account, but people that are just slightly younger than me do, and they post stuff about their lives that I don't feel comfortable doing.

    Lectures are also useful for as catalysts for private discussions. For example, someone gives a lecture, and I start talking to the person next to me, and then we both figure out that we agree that the lecture and the lecturer is full of crap.

    One problem with blogs is that we are getting to the point that anyone that says anything really interesting in a blog becomes an internet celebrity that gets hounded by a lynch mob. When I first got involved with the internet in the late-1980's it was a small town in which people knew and trusted each other. The internet is now a big city, and something got lost along the way.

    And the rules are changing as we speak. Now that everyone has a tablet computer, you can do things that you couldn't before.

    And if you can't find a club, then start one.

    Read Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and ""The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved" for examples of what I think is excellent journalism.
  25. Mar 21, 2012 #24
    One other thing. You have nothing to lose, and you have a lot of freedom to make mistakes and do things that later turn out to be stupid. Use that freedom.

    I'd *like* to experiment more with new media and new technology, but if something goes seriously wrong, then I lose my job and my entire life goes into a tail spin, and I don't have much in the way of spare time anyway. (The memos that I get that essentially say that "you will get fired if you start a blog" keeps me off-line, and the memos that I get saying that "you will get fired if you reveal the existence of this memo" also have the same effect.)

    Eventually (and it might take years), we'll have a CEO that's been blogging since elementary school, and things are going to change, but we'll be following trends rather than leading them. You can lead them.

    I don't think that you are under those sorts of restrictions, so you have a lot more freedom to try new and different things.
  26. Mar 21, 2012 #25
    quant you better hide now that you revealed the memo, duck under the covers
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