Episode #178: Stephanie Ryan

Dana GoodierOut of the Trenches Podcast

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.

Trench story: When she was taking time off to have her son. Revisited concepts from a diff. age group-complicated to explain things to a toddler. found out how to simplify tricky concepts for adults to little kids. Sometimes kids give her answers that have her think a different way. It’s not a set lesson plan. She feeds off students.

Learning Together with Your Family, Kitchen Chemistry/Kitchen Science tips for families: that was another trench, during pandemic, what she could do w/ son. Rigid science experiments thought it wasn’t fun. Approach it from their lens. If the kid likes bugs, approach it from that lens. Diff. b/w spiders and insects. Themed packs. Use items already around the house. Baking soda/vinegar. It’s part of natural curiosity. To an older kid, ask “What’s happening?” A garden is science. Put seed in sunny vs. shaded areas. W/ young kids, not necessarily doing experiments. Teach them to make better observations. She likes to make parfait patterns ABAB. Can use popcorn in yogurt. Kids make a ratio with popcorn. It is math. Kids can recognize patterns.

Tell us about some fun activities parents can do at home with materials they likely have in their home already? Give some examples of materials. She spells them on social. Yeast with sugar, reaction that occurs, produces gas. Time Lapse video. Ballon comes up, how does it apply to baking? Qu’s can get more pointed depending on the kid’s age. Freeze baking soda paste. Drop vinegar on it. Theme- bugs ones shaped like caterpillars. Food color, oil, water. lava lamps.

What if I don’t know the right answer or how to explain something? Should I correct my child if they have an incorrect understanding of something? Generational difference. Teachers have access to google today. Let’s ask Siri. Show them you don’t know the answer. They need to see that adults collaborate. Look it up together. She has a series on Tik Tok about this. In terms of a kid’s incorrect understanding- you want to correct; it may shut them down. Instead, say “let’s try it”. Kids can tweak their own mental model & apply in diff way, like rain turns to sleet. Find a contrasting case for MS/HS that shows the real facts.

How can I incorporate reading into my Science and math activities, point to specific books, she said it depends on the content. She has some for small children. For older kids, you can pull in science news. Dependent on grade level. PreK-K “Very hungry caterpillar”, you could tie in purchasing toy caterpillars. Could do hole punches thru food the caterpillar is supposed to eat. As SS teacher, you can do a lot with your scientists. ELA- you can write about scientific discoveries. Math- exponential growth. Working with teachers at same grade level. Cross-collaboration is important. ELA teachers may have misconception.

How old do children need to be to learn about STEM concepts? Touch base on even Pre-K. Her pre-k son did a soil experiment. How STEM can be more interactive for students who need to be challenged. How can the child advocate for themselves? Even before pre-K. Kids in highchairs throwing food are learning about gravity. They can read science books, watch science cartoons. Designing experiments. Looking for patterns.

How did you get the idea to write your book “Let’s learn about science”? Talk about the publishing process. By the time it came out, her son didn’t recognize characters. Talk about her initial desire to write it. In her day job, writing standardized assessments, while son was playing, she realized we sort in toddler years. We know solids are something we pick up. She started when he was 1. Came out when he was 3. She uses real toys in her book. “Which isn’t like the other?” You could answer “these three are red, the other’s blue”. Some kids were having trouble deciding what a solid is. Published right as pandemic hit. Massive online push.  Blessing for her- gave him something to do during the pandemic. She has follow-up ideas for chemistry. Activity book she is working on.

Key quotes:

 Science Click To Tweet ” username=”@outoftrenchespc”].

Find Dr. Stephanie online For great learning activities in the sciences, book recommendations, and more, follow Dr. Stephanie on FB, Tik Tok, Instagram at @letslearnaboutscience

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/1b_kDx9dT8s



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