This is a guest post from Science Cheerleader, Lindsey.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Coastal Pop Warner Bengals Pee Wee Cheerleaders to assist them with collecting microbes for Project MERCCURI, a citizen science project the Science Cheerleaders are running in partnership with UC Davis, SciStarter, NanoRacks and Space Florida. Learn more about the project on SpaceMicrobes.org.
The girls were so excited to share their stories with me and show off their cheerleading moves. I watched as they perfected their high V’s and practiced their jumps. We had even more fun as we swabbed cell phones and shoes together, talking about what kind of microbes we thought would grow from our samples!
As each girl shared information such as how long she’d been cheering and what other hobbies she had, I took note that not one of them mentioned science as a favorite subject. As I signed posters and took pictures, the girls asked me questions. There was the usual ‘How long have you cheered?’, but then they started to ask ‘What is an Automation Engineer?’ and ‘Did you get all A’s in school?’ I took this opportunity to start a conversation on how fun science and math are, and the opportunities there are in the field of science.
One of the girls said ‘Science is hard’. I responded with ‘Cheerleading is hard’. We discussed how cheerleading is a lot of fun, so we sometimes don’t realize how hard we are working when we are practicing. I explained how it is the same for science; I worked really hard in school so that now I have a fun career in science. That resonated with them and we talked about how some things, like science and cheerleading, are worth the effort because they give us the most enjoyment!
I think the girls taught me something during my short time with them. I love to inspire young women to get involved in science, and this can be a tough task when all they can think about is ‘science is hard’, but my efforts to show them the thrill of science really is rewarding! Some things are worth the hard work.
Editor’s Note: We are so thrilled to announce that the microbes collected by these cheerleaders at this event have been selected to fly on the International Space Station!! See what it looks like and learn more about this specific microbe and why it was chosen here on its very own trading card! Some fun facts:
Where we found it: On grass field sample collected by the Pop Warner Pee Wee Bengals cheerleaders (Wilmington, NC)
Why it’s awesome: This microbe has been induced to form silver nanoparticles that show antibacterial activity
Fun fact: This bacteria has been isolated from both seawater and agricultural waste