Last call: Meet us on the National Mall!

Pro-Cheerleaders Turned Scientists Shatter Stereotypes

October 22, 2010. Washington, DC. Science Cheerleaders from across the nation are headed for Washington, DC’s National Mall this October 23-24, 2010 to prove it’s cool to be cool and love science.

Credit: Alma Radocaj

Cheerleaders from the Redskins, Titans, Chiefs, Texans among others are performing on stage at the USA Science & Engineering Festival, shaking their pom poms and divulging science and math facts about energy, electricity, atoms, math, and engineering.

Welcome to the new face of science as created by former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader, Darlene Cavalier. She is joined by women who are mathematicians, medical doctors, chemists and engineers, among others. Their goal is to challenge the stereotypical image of female scientists as pale, frumpy, lab rats and show young girls that all of their dreams can come true.

Research from the National Science Foundation explains that the stereotype of a female scientist is still present in many girls’ minds. When students were asked to draw a scientist, NSF reported, most portrayed a white male in a lab coat. Female scientists were drawn as severe and not very happy. So it’s not surprising that by eighth grade, boys are twice as interested in STEM careers as girls are.

The cheerleading routines, choreographed by Going ProEntertainment, are set to fun, upbeat science songs. The cheerleaders will be wearing customized Science Cheerleader uniforms, designed and donated by Angela King Designs. Immediately following the performance, the cheerleaders will offer a free cheerleading clinic to all interested kids ages 4-17.

Science Cheerleaders
will also hand-out and autograph trading cards (complete with education and science stats) and offer words of wisdom to festival-goers, including young women. The USA Science & Engineering Festival is the Science Cheerleaders first stop on a national tour where they will perform cheers and inspire others at regional festivals.
”Science Cheerleader’s mission is simply to engage more people in science. These remarkable current and former cheerleaders have proven to be incredibly influential partners in this effort. The opportunity to debut at the inaugural USA Science and Engineering Festival was something we could not pass up,” says Cavalier.

Cavalier, who has a masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania discovered as an adult that she loved science when she spent 10 years working for Discover magazine. In the process, she met famous scientists such as Dean Kamen, Marvin Minsky, Penn and Teller and Sally Ride and was wowed by their desire to share their passion for science.

The idea for creating a team of science cheerleaders came as a result of a project Cavalier launched with George Mason University professor (and science literacy expert) James Trefil and the Philadelphia 76ers cheerleaders. The series, entitled Brain Makeover, was picked up by national news outlets the day it was put on the Science Cheerleader web site and Cavalier knew she was onto something.

About 50 science cheerleaders have joined the team and Cavalier is recruiting college, high-school, and middle-school cheerleaders to be Science Cheerleaders! A grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund makes it possible for the participating cheerleaders to travel to Washington, D.C. for this event.

Darlene Cavalier is the cofounder of ScienceForCitizens.net, an online portal connecting regular people (“citizen scientists”) to research projects they can do. At the Festival, be sure to check out the very cool Sci4Cits booths #1229 and #1331.
As The Science Cheerleader, Cavalier has a popular blog and is a frequent writer and speaker on public engagement in science. She is also a founding partner of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a distributed network of science museums and universities working to foster greater public dialogue in sci/tech policy formation. Cavalier is a senior advisor and contributor to Discover Magazine. She resides in Philadelphia, PA with her husband and four children.

Contact: Darlene Cavalier Darlene@sciencecheerleader.com 267-253-1310
Aimee Stern, aimee@sterncommdc.com 202-744-5004

  • John Takao Collier

    Nice article, but as much as I love Penn & Teller, describing them as “famous scientists” is a bit of a stretch. 🙂 Have a great time at the festival, Darlene. You can the other Science Cheerleaders rock!