March 22, 2022 4 min read
If you love STEM, you can probably think back to your childhood and remember someone who inspired your curiosity, helped you develop your interests, or encouraged your exploration. Science communicators are people who use art and other mediums to explain science concepts to non-scientists. Their work helps inspire an emotional and intellectual connection with STEM fields. Here at Boutique Academia, science communicators are our heroes!
First off, can you tell us a little about yourself and your work?
I’m a wife and mother to two small, rambunctious boys. I share my house with two cats who silently judge everything I do and a border collie who believes she is a giant cat. I’ve been writing and illustrating children’s picture books for twelve years and have published five picture books that have won over ten literary awards.
Your children’s books include themes about science and technology...did you love science as a kid? What first sparked your interest in STEM?
Before STEM education became part of the California curriculum, we had magnet schools. The elementary school I attended was a magnet for science, and that was where everything started to blossom. I had a science teacher who was a living embodiment of Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus, from how she dressed to how she spoke. I owe my love and inquisitive nature of all things science to her.
You go on a lot of classroom visits. What do you do when you visit a classroom?
My visits usually consist of reading one of the books from my Little Katie series that focuses on STEM education. After a brief Q&A with the students, we engage in a fun, hands-on STEM activity related to the story we just read. Besides being a fun break from the classroom routine, an author or illustrator visit introduces students to the processes of writing, developing characters, and expressing one’s creativity. Author visits are my favorite part of what I do because I witness firsthand how excited the students get about books, and I’m provided with an opportunity to encourage young writers.
What kinds of things are you enjoying learning about right now? Do you have an area of STEM that particularly interests you? How do you feed that interest?
I’ve been learning the basics of computer coding. Before each story, I spend months researching the topic I will write about, and right now, that topic is computers. So, I enrolled in an online course to learn about the basics of computer coding, and I was able to take over the building and maintenance of my website. If I had to choose one STEM area, it would be science. There is still so much to learn and discover. If I spent the rest of my life studying just science, I don’t think I would ever get bored.
If time and money (and feasibility) were no object, what kind of STEM-related adventure would you want to go on? Visit the moon? Explore the deep seas? Something else?
I have two young boys interested in a future with paleontology, so if time, money, and feasibility were no issue, I would choose something involving dinosaurs. Whether that was somehow being able to magically transport back in time to the Mesozoic era (a girl can dream, right) or visiting an excavation site where they can experience the hands-on life of digging for dino bones, I would pick that in a heartbeat.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share about science communication, children’s literacy, or why you do what you do?
Living in the heart of Silicon Valley, I knew I wanted to incorporate STEM education into picture books. Something that would not only entertain children but also teach them too. STEM/STEAM is the 21st century. The need for people to work in these fields is imminent, and we need more diversity in the people in STEM/STEAM fields. The best way to introduce children, especially girls, is through compelling storytelling. Nothing is more magical for a child than being transported to a new world where they can explore and discover unknown things. This was true for me. Having never outgrown fairytales, I see STEM as a maze of stories and want to hear more diverse voices in that world. That is why my Little Katie series will continue to grow and expand, covering all the STEM/STEAM field topics. With so much to learn and explore, the possibilities for this series are endless. I firmly believe and often say, ‘Literature can open up a whole new world to children.’ Children’s literature is one of the best platforms to introduce kids to all that life offers.
Learn more about Carmela's books on her website at https://carmeladutra.
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