Adventures in Ethics and Science

Around this corner of the blogosphere, folks frequently bemoan the sorry state of the public’s scientific literacy and engagement. People fret about whether our children is are learning what they should about science, math, and critical reasoning. Netizens speculate on the destination of the handbasket in which we seem to be riding.

In light of the big problems that seem insurmountable, we should welcome the opportunity to do something small that can have an immediate impact.

During the month of October, a bunch of us ScienceBlogs bloggers will be participating in the annual DonorsChoose “philanthropic throwdown for public schools”, which this year they’re calling the 2009 Social Media Challenge. (You may recognize it as the Blogger Challenge of yore.)

DonorsChoose is a site where public school teachers from around the U.S. submit requests for specific needs in their classrooms — from books to science kits, overhead projectors to notebook paper, computer software to field trips — that they can’t meet with the funds they get from their schools (or from donations from their students’ families). Then donors choose which projects they’d like to fund and then kick in the money, whether it’s a little or a lot, to help a proposal become a reality.

Since 2006, ScienceBlogs bloggers have rallied their readers to contribute what they can to help fund classroom proposals through DonorsChoose, especially proposals for projects around math and science.  Over the course of our three Blogger Challenge drives, we’ve managed to raise about $128,000, funding hundreds of classroom projects impacting thousands of students.

Which is great. But there are a whole lot of classrooms out there that still need help.

Last year’s drive kicked off at about the same time as the U.S.’s financial crisis did. Back then, I wrote:

This is October 2008.
You may have noticed that Wall Street is in the throes of a financial crisis these days. What somehow escapes the notice of folks with the power to direct billions of dollars one direction or another is that public school teachers have been scraping for resources since long before Wall Street’s financial crisis started. Theirs is a less dramatic crisis, but it’s here and it’s real and we can’t afford to wait around for lawmakers on the federal or state level to fix it.

The kids in these classrooms haven’t been making foolish investments. They’ve just been coming to school, expecting to be taught what they need to learn, hoping that learning will be fun. They’re our future scientists, doctors, teachers, decision-makers, care-providers, and neighbors. To create the scientifically literate world we want to live in, let’s help give these kids the education they deserve.

The situation in public schools in the U.S. is quite a bit worse now than it was a year ago, since the financial crisis has caught up with state budgets, and public school funding seems to be bearing more than its share of the pain. Now more than ever, committed teachers are trying to get kids excited about learning with barely the resources to provide the basics. Unless we’re willing to let today’s school kids be casualties of the worst budgetary times in memory, we must do what we can to help teachers get the resources they need to get the job done.

One classroom project at a time, we can make things better for these kids. Joining forces with each other people, even small contributions can make a big difference.

The challenge this year runs for the entire month of October. A number of ScienceBloggers have already put together challenges, but I have it on good authority that more will be coming online before too long. Here’s who’s in so far:

Adventures in Ethics and Science (challenge here)
DrugMonkey (challenge here)

Gene Expression (challenge here)
“Geobloggers Giving Kids the Earth”, a joint effort by All of My Faults Are Stress Related, Highly Allochthonous, and Eruptions (challenge here)
Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted) (challenge here)

On Being a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess (challenge here)
Sciencewomen (challenge here)

Uncertain Principles (challenge here)
White Coat Underground (challenge here)

How It Works:

Follow the links above to your chosen blogger’s challenge on the DonorsChoose website.
Pick a project from the slate the blogger has selected. Or more than one project, if you just can’t choose. (Or, if you really can’t choose, just go with the “Give to the most urgent project” option at the top of the page.)


(If you’re the loyal reader of multiple participating blogs and you don’t want to play favorites, you can, of course, donate to multiple challenges! But you’re also allowed to play favorites.)

DonorsChoose will send you a confirmation email. Hold onto it; our benevolent overlords at Seed will be randomly selecting some donors to receive nifty prizes. Details about the prizes and how to get entered will be posted here soon!

Sit back and watch the challenges inch towards their goals, and check the ScienceBlogs leaderboard to see how many students will be impacted by your generosity. And, if you like, you can track our collective progress on the motherboard, which will let you see just how badly ScienceBlogs bloggers are kicking the butts of tech bloggers, mommy bloggers, knitting bloggers, and the like. We might even be able to catch up to the Discover Magazine science bloggers.

Even if you can’t make a donation, you can still help!

In honor of its rechristening as the “Social Media Challenge”, spread the word about these challenges using web 2.0 social media modalities. Link your favorite blogger’s challenge page on your MySpace page, or put up a link on Facebook, or FriendFeed, or LiveJournal (or Friendster, or Xanga, or …). Tweet about it on Twitter. Sharing your enthusiasm for this cause may inspire some of your contacts who do have a little money to get involved and give.


  1. #1 LindaCO
    October 1, 2009

    Hmmm, the ScienceBlogs with challenges already posted are the ones that I read most often. Interesting…

    I’m looking forward to reading about the projects.

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