monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

3 minutes reading time (651 words)

Dazzled by the Kids at Solomon Schechter Academy

I'm not usually DAZZLED, but that is the right word to describe my reaction today to working with the Grades Two and Three students at Solomon Schechter Academy. I was invited to SSA by principal Ms. Doughan to discuss my latest non-fiction book, Open Science: Knowledge for Everyone (Orca). Though the book has been out since the fall and I've done a number of school visits since then, this was the first time my talk focused exclusively on the new book. And the timing was right because these students had just taken part in a giant science fair.

I had a lot to say about Open Science, which is an important new trend in science -- for scientists to openly share data and reagents (an example of a reagent is a blood sample) to speed up the discovery process. I asked the kids which word they thought was more positive -- open or closed? And they all called out together: "Open!" Then a student named Mia raised her hand and added the term "open-minded" to our discussion -- and I told Mia I wish I'd used that in my book too!

We talked about how everyone can do science -- kids included! And we discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic did a lot to promote Open Science. That's because by openly sharing their findings, scientists were able to come up with the first COVID-19 vaccinations in just eight months. Before then, on average, it had taken scientists an average of TEN YEARS to develop a vaccination!

Before I mention some of the kids' great comments and questions, I want to say a special thank you to a student named Oliver who took notes for us. I found Oliver when I asked "Who has note paper with them?" And Oliver was the only one who did! Oliver, that could be a sign that you will be a writer. (We writers never go anywhere without paper -- and a pen!)

Okay -- so why was I dazzled? It's because of the kids' reaction when I read from the book -- they were totally STILL and FOCUSED and because they had so many comments and questions. I had told the kids that I got interested in Open Science because my boyfriend (hey, he's now my fiancé, I nearly forgot!!)  is a scientist and a champion of Open Science. A student named Gaby raised her hand and said, "Maybe you should tell this to your boyfriend: I think I know how COVID started." Pretty impressive,no? Mia asked, "Why did scientists [in the past] have to be secretive?" (I explained how the focus used to be on getting famous and being promoted, and not so much on working together in teams.) Mia also told me something interesting when I talked about the difference between fiction and non-fiction books and how I write both. She said, "I have a book in my desk about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg." Since I'm a fan of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg's (she was a judge in the US Supreme Court) I made sure to write that comment down! Atara told me she writes fiction and non-fiction, and then Ms. Doughan added that Atara also illustrates her books. And finally, as Class 2A was filing out of the room, the students told me, "We are writing a book on our way to recess!"

So... if it sounds like I had fun at SSA today it's because I did! Special thanks to the awesome Ms. Doughan for the invite (I will never say no to Ms. Doughan!); to the school's marketing and communications director Nick Frai for taking pics (including the one in today's post); and to teacher Ms. Perez for also taking a great set of notes. And to all the students for DAZZLING me. Here's to being open-minded, and doing Open Science, and sharing knowledge and discoveries of every kind!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday, 15 April 2024

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