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Learning sciences and science education with Dr Stephanie Ryan (#30)

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Duration: 01:07:14
Dr Stephanie Ryan, Ph.D. is a chemist, a boy mom, and a social media influencer who enjoys using her background to create superior educational products and content.
Although an academic at heart, Dr Stephanie is passionate about learning through play. She can be found helping young kids explore the
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Dr Stephanie Ryan, Ph.D. is a chemist, a boy mom, and a social media influencer who enjoys using her background to create superior educational products and content.
Although an academic at heart, Dr Stephanie is passionate about learning through play. She can be found helping young kids explore the fascinating world around them.
Over the years, Dr Stephanie has taught science to all age groups, both in and out of the classroom, helping toddlers learn about their world and college students define theirs. She is an active member of the chemistry education community and is currently a committee member of the International Activities Committee for the Division of Chemical Education.
Dr Stephanie earned her Ph.D. in the Learning Sciences and her M.S. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Saint Mary’s College.
For great learning activities in the sciences, book recommendations, and more, follow Dr Stephanie on Instagram at @letslearnaboutscience.
In our conversation, we talk about learning sciences, education, and Stephanie's book Let's Learn about Chemistry.
Show notes and connect with us at (steampoweredshow.com)
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um and so I actually show like, hey, this was my 13th try to get this. You know, like it's okay if you didn't get it or like we did a rock, it's not a one shot exactly. You made a baking soda and vinegar rocket and I accidentally tipped it over and we have a circle of grass that doesn't grow still. Um, and so these are things I like to point out now because parents, um, I don't want them to feel like they're not confident, I want them to feel like they couldn't do this. This is, and it switched from teaching kids to teaching parents. Um, and so that's kind of the difference there and it's kind of not just even teaching, it's giving them confidence, it's boosting their morale that hey, you live delight, you know, more than your four year old, even if you don't, you know that a solid liquid and gas, you know what these things are and they don't like um, and that is all you do with them that is more than they were getting. Um and it's going to help them understand the world around them. And it's just such a, I don't want to say it's an easy way Because it's not easy to make that switch of looking at the world that way, but it's not really adding anything on. So it's not like, oh here you need to take an extra 30 minutes of your day for your busy parent that you don't have time. It's just tweaking some of the things you already do to be it that way. So like we make yogurt per phase and I was like this look like patterns. I can do patterns with us. And so we label the layers like granola, is a bananas or B. And then you make the pattern and we have to do it and like that was stem but it was also snack. Uh huh. A little stem. Excellent. Just what everybody wants
my son was a baby and he was playing and I was doing some work on this side. I was just, you know, like he's over in this area and I'm doing my thing and I looked over and he had a pile of orange toys and I was like, what you're doing? Um Because they're so weird, what are you doing it? And I thought to myself, wait a second. He's, he's not even a year old and he's able to sort things by color. That is interesting. And I was like a lot of science in the beginning is pretty categorical. Is this, is this an atom, where is this a molecule? Is this a pure substance? Or is this a mixture? And you go um and it's like, mm I wonder how many of these things are like that. So I started to like just map it out in a power point slide, oddly enough, because I didn't have the pictures and I had yet. I just had the idea. So I mapped these out and I thought which of these is not like the other is a fun game the kids play and why not use science in those and we could use their real toys. And so I did market research of looking at every book that's out there in the, in the field. And I felt like it was pretty, it was it was a niche market where it was like for nerds babies, it was, if you're a scientist or a doctor, these books are for your kids. And I remember thinking, well I want this to be for everybody. So let's game and said.
Um, so I'm always trying to find a new way to teach something. So finding a phenomenon that could be explained using something that we teach high schoolers, I just wanted to be authentic um, and not me trying to be hip and cool and trying to make it sound need to them, but like this is an actual thing, What do you think is happening? You know, and whether it's super interesting or not that is up to each kid, but I think that it's the fact that it's a real thing and that you don't know the answer and you have to figure some stuff out to get to it. I think that that's, that's really fun. So I love coming up with new ideas and whenever there's a new item format that comes out like a, I can't say some of them because they're proprietary in things ever. There's a new item format that comes out at a company. I love coming up with the coolest way to use it, always going back and forth with the developers like, hey, could I use it in this way? Because I think that would be really cool, you know? Um, and so it's, it's a lot of fun.
Yeah, there are a few, like the example of boiling water that you need to see the molecular level of it to understand it. Because when you boil water and it disappears, you what are you going to use to back up what you're doing, you know? Um And so if with the molecular way of showing it we in in the chemistry curriculum there was a simulation with hydrogen peroxide getting heated and one with water being heated and the listening to the kids talk about those two things. Solidified chemical physical change for them. And I love that example is my favorite. I go back to it all the time. Okay, so tell me that example, like how does that work? Yeah, so hydrogen peroxide when it's heated, decomposes into oxygen gas and hydrogen gas. And so that is an example of yeah, chemical change and it is something new has happened. Um But with the water when you heat it up, those water molecules are all still there and they're still water molecules, it is just now a gas. Um and so that shows the kids, but when it disappeared, you can't see it, but it's still water. It has not changed into something else. And it was because they look so similar and that's another case of the students not they're learning about atoms and how H. 202 is different than H 20. And so like even getting at that, so it was just so many different levels to see that happening. And that one of my other favorite part, I just love that simulation. Um One of the other things I liked about it was that it's the probability of atoms hitting each other. So when I was going to chemistry, I thought that this plus this equals that. So they're going to hit each other in their hands, but that's not at all. It has to happen with enough energy and it has to happen at the right angle and like there's a lot of stuff to it. So it actually built that probability and and sometimes you would see the same molecule break into something else in a different simulation, you know, so it might go back and forth with equilibrium and like that. So the visual component, I think helped a lot of kids. Absolutely. Lab helps obviously for some, um, but for some it might just re establish some misconception they have if you're not also looking at molecular level. So that was just so cool to watch.
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