Jennifer Swanson Q&A
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: I am the award-winning author of over 40 books for children, mostly about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). My love of STEM/science comes from a very young age. When I was 7 years old, I started a science club in my garage. I have loved science ever since. I went to college and got a B.S. in Chemistry from the U.S. Naval Academy and I have my M.S. Ed. in K-8 Science Education from Walden University. These days when I’m not working on books, I’m also working as an online middle school science teacher for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth.
Q: When did you discover you were a writer?
A: I began writing stories when I was 5 years old. I used to write and illustrate stories and present them to my kindergarten class. As I got older, I kept journals throughout my life. I began writing professionally about 10 years ago.
Q: What piqued your interest in science and technology?
A: I have this huge curiosity about the world. I want to know how things work! I used to ask my mom this question all the time. She was the one that encouraged me to go look things up, and do research. That is how I learned to love research and discovering new science and technology.What is your favorite part about the work that you do? I love pretty much everything about writing STEM books for kids. First of all, there is the research— I get to read about some amazing cutting-edge technology. Even better, I get to visit a lot of these places and speak with the scientists and engineers that are doing this important work. For me, that is probably the coolest thing! But I also love writing the books and then seeing students captivated by the topic just like me. If my books can inspire even one child to pursue a career in STEM, I am thrilled.
Q: Why do you think it is important for youth to learn about STEM topics?
A: STEM is such a huge part of our lives. I do a talk for students titled ‘Science is All Around You’, and it’s true. Everything around us is science— trees, plants, mountains, dogs, cats, chairs, buildings, and even our own selves, we are all made of science. Learning about technology and engineering is very important because that is our future. Our world is continually growing and expanding our knowledge and capabilities. We need students who understand STEM (yes, math too!), is extremely important.
Q: How can educators, parents, and society encourage children to explore new ideas?
A: Let the children explore their own interests. If a child shows an interest in science or STEM, encourage them. You don’t have to know or even like STEM yourself, just allow them to learn what they can about it. Expose them to books about STEM, take them to science museums, and perhaps even get them a chemistry or robotics set. (I had a few chemistry sets as a kid). You may even discover that you like science, too.
Q: When it comes to the gender gap in STEM fields, what advice would you offer to youth girls about staying interested in science and technology?
A: Follow your passion and never give up! It doesn’t matter if others think that STEM is not for you, if you truly love learning and doing STEM, then don’t let anyone tell you differently. If you can’t pursue your love of STEM, then get books and read about it. Eventually, you will be able to do so. And never forget, STEM is is the best when it is diverse! The more people from different backgrounds that can come together to discover and shape STEM ideas, the better.
Q: Do you think STEM concepts and literacy skills relate to one another? Why or why not?
A: Absolutely! STEM and literacy go hand in hand. STEM is a way of thinking, but in order to communicate well with others (something that is very important in the STEM world), you also need to be able to speak and write well. STEM books are a great way to get people of all ages interested in science and technology. They give you unique ways of looking at different topics. They introduce you to people who may become your mentors. STEM books are also great ways to understand how to create an informational writing piece with a lot of interest and creativity.
Q: At African Library Project, we have started a STEM initiative to create libraries in African countries with a science and technology component. In your opinion, what is the impact of having a STEM literate population on a global level?
A: It is imperative! As I said before, STEM is important for our future. Having a population that understands STEM, its principles, and how to think like an engineer or scientist, would be invaluable.
Q: How do you think having access to STEM resources prepares youth for the future?
A: Having access to STEM resources will give students confidence in their schooling. They will see that teachers and parents value their interest and support their exposure to these topics. STEM resources engage, excite, and inspire. It is my hope that all youth are exposed to STEM resources that do all of these things.
More About Jennifer Swanson
Visit Jennifer Swanson’s blog, www.STEMTuesday.com which is a resource for teachers, parents, and students about STEM books and literacy. It has book lists for different topics and also activities and a monthly book giveaway!
Jennifer also has a new STEM Podcast! www.solveitforkids.com is a great way for kids to think like a scientist or engineer. Solve It! for Kids – The science podcast for curious & creative kids and their families.
Peek into the world of real-life scientists, engineers, and experts as they solve problems in their every day jobs. Kids and families are then invited to take on a challenge and solve a problem themselves! Join Jennifer Swanson and Jedlie as they ask questions, solve problems, and offer challenges that take curiosity and creativity to a whole new level.
Don’t forget to participate in the weekly challenges! If you do, you can be entered to win a free book!