STEM for All

I’ve been participating this week as a facilitator in the STEM for All video showcase.

It brings together 287 projects through short videos related to improving STEM education. You can focus in on specific topics. For example, you could see the set of videos using the keywords “informal learning” and “citizen science.”

The videos emphasize impact and broadening participation, especially in the midst of COVID. Visitors can view the videos and participate in the online discussions. They can also vote for favorites (voting and discussion ends on May 18 at 8pm EDT).

Covid-19 in Nepal

My heart aches when I think of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal. The situation is dire, worse than in neighboring India.

The latest data I’ve seen (e.g., from Our World in Data) shows a positivity rate in Nepal standing at 47%, meaning that many cases are missed and every other person is infected. The full vaccination rate is 1%. There is little chance to get shots unless the US steps up.

Several of my colleagues have had or currently have COVID-19, including one former student, various colleagues, and several attendees at workshops I led there.

On a recent video call, two people failed to show up because they were sick, one didn’t come because his mother was ill, one just didn’t show up. One showed up but was sick and didn’t say much. Only one was healthy.

The airport is now shut down, so it’s difficult to get oxygen. The health system is overrun. A colleague I trust, Shisir Khanal, has started a GoFundMe: Help People Breathe: Oxygen For Tulsipur to buy oxygen or concentrators. Efforts like that are important, but much more is needed.

The country’s only zoo in Jawalakhel was shut for 10 months due to the pandemic. After reopening, a cap of about a quarter of the usual number of visitors has been imposed. Not surprisingly, the zoo has struggled to stay afloat since it depends heavily on visitor fees. Now, it appears that they may not be able to pay staff or feed the animals.

The only hope may be a new Adopt-an-animal program. Would you like to save an Asian elephant, a one-horned rhino, or a royal Bengal tiger?

The US should treat COVID-19 as a global problem, not simply one of public health in within the US. It is a moral imperative to help Nepal (and other countries), but it also makes sense from the most selfish perspective.

People in the US are celebrating that COVID-19 seems to be at bay. But as the tale in India and other countries shows, early confidence is often undercut by the realities of the virus. The pandemic continues to rage in Nepal, India, other parts of Asia, South America, and Africa.

Widespread infection ignores national boundaries. New variants are not just possible, but inevitable, putting every person on the planet at risk. If we don’t stop the spread, the pandemic can easily return worse than ever in the US. At best it will haunt us for a very long time.

Honey of a campsite

Day 7: Cave Mountain Lake, VIrginia, 1057 miles, 8 states

It all comes of liking honey so much.

A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

After several wrong turns (blame this navigator), one night that was strikingly cold, persistent rain, and some other minor irritations, we arrived at the almost perfect campsite.

The weather was ideal, cool enough to justify a campfire, but not enough to shiver us. Our site was at the end of a loop, with no one else nearby. We mercifully had no wifi or cell service. The comfort facilities were clean and not too far away. We had several pleasant walks and could have spent months doing more in the area.

There was only one problem.

A forbidding sign told us not to leave any food outside or in a tent (no surprise at that), but also no bug spray, no hand sanitizer, charcoal and lighter fluid, toothpaste, or virtually any other item I’d ever imagined on a camping trip.

The problem of course was bears. They can easily become a nuisance or a major danger, and they’re apparently attracted to everything, at least anything that a human has touched.

During dinner, there were three times that we heard major rustling in the woods just above our site. There was no human trail there, and the rustling was much too loud to be from a raccoon or turkey. That night, too, we heard four-footed steps outside our van, enough to make us stretch out the time between needed nighttime comfort breaks.

We might have beeome bear food, but through intelligence, perseverance, and bravery we managed to make it though the night.

New video for conservation areas

[Cross-posted from Wellfleet Conservation Trust]

An analysis of the use of our WCT website shows that many visitors to the site are interested in exploring the conservation areas and trails. That’s especially the case in July and August.

Responding to that need, Mary Doucette, our Americorps worker, has produced a terrific video for the Fox Island and Pilgrim Spring area.

It’s now posted in our video showcase, which will eventually contain additional WCT videos (currently just this one).

Education’s Ecosystems intro video

The ecosystems perspective on learning offers a new way of thinking about how learning through life — work, play, home, family, and community — relates to formal education and its many informal counterparts in libraries, clubs, churches, online, etc. It conceives education broadly as the central process of democratic life. For the educator in formal or informal settings, it provides a theoretical framework for what the best educators are already doing. For the researcher or evaluator, it offers tools for analysis. For anyone it suggests ways to reflect on our own learning through life.

[The book includes a foreword by John Pecore]

Rowman & Littlefield, 2020

The shifting calm of a barrier spit

Day 4: Sandy Hook, New Jersey, 454 miles, 5 states

Peace flows into me
As the tide to the pool by the shore;
It is mine forevermore,
It ebbs not back like the sea …

Sara Teasdale, ‘Peace’.

Sandy Hook is a beautiful, peaceful respite. There are interesting walks and cycle routes all over. The big activities are in other-than-human nature, since the principal human activity was the now dilapidated Fort Hancock.

Beach plums bloom wildly in the spring, promising unlimited jams and jellies. Menhadens litter the beach. Perhaps a school was attacked by bluefish, or seabirds? Ospreys circle overhead, in flocks of four or more, a pattern that I’d never seen before. The tides move inexorably, but the whitecaps come and go as the wind keeps changing. The Raritan bay side and the Atlantic ocean side each have their distinctive character.

Beach plum bush with blossoms

The isolation and calm aren’t for everyone. Sarah Patterson was appointed Assistant Keeper of the Lighthouse in 1867. She assisted her brother, Charles Patterson, who was Head Keeper and tended the lighthouse from 1861 to 1885. She complained about what seemed monotonous to her:

…I get homesick…I can only look at sand and water [here]. We can’t hardly tell whether its spring or not… [because] it is always one thing here; the sand and cedars never change.

Sarah Patterson Johnson in a letter to her father at the family farm in Howell Township, NJ

Sarah never knew that the beach season would disrupt the calm of Sandy Hook starting each June. I imagine that it’s quite different then. Huge parking lots, A through M, imply hundreds of cars, beach parties, loud music, frisbees, dogs, and raucous times.

The summer could offer a fun adventure, but I’ll settle for quiet interrupted only occasionally by the warning horn of the ferry approaching the nearby dock, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises over the water, and sand and cedars that actually change all the time.

Sandy Hook

Day 2: Sandy Hook, New Jersey, 364 miles, 5 states

Lori H. Ersolmaz, “Fatigue” (Video Poem)

We met Stephen on Tuesday and saw his new apartment in Central Park West.

Afterwards, we picked up a half dozen baguettinis at Perfect Picnic, a sandwich place across from the Park. While there, I learned that the owner wasn’t around because she was in Provincetown setting up a branch there.

It’s not authentic old Cape Cod cuisine but is a welcome addition, especially for a good, easy lunch. We ate sitting on a bench along the Hudson River around 100th St.

We’re staying on the barrier spit, Sandy Hook, which is a miniature Cape Cod (3 versus 339 square miles). It’s part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, similar to the Cape’s National Seashore.

There are beach plums aplenty, cedars more than pitch pines, shipwrecks, ospreys, seals, and inviting sandy beaches. There’s even an old military base (Fort Hancock) and an old lighthouse like those on the Cape.

I’ve received the good news that my new book, Thinking with Maps, is now out. I asked to have a copy mailed to Austin so I can pick it up there.

A TRIPS waiver to stop COVID-19

As you may know, a major barrier delaying international distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is intellectual property restrictions. Biden could remove that barrier by supporting a TRIPS Waiver.

Such a move is supported by many organizations such as Oxfam, Medicins san Frontieres, and Human Rights Watch. Without it, the pandemic will continue, quite likely increasing, and new lethal variants are certain to arise.

A TRIPS waiver is important to save perhaps millions of lives worldwide, but also for bringing the pandemic under control in the US.

AI and Emerging Technologies for a Sustainable Future

Last week I gave a webinar through the Global Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (Nepal). It was at 6-7 pm NPT (7:15-8:15 am EST), Thursday, Feb 18. See details 

Here’s a summary: Artificial intelligence has been imagined as powerful, intelligent, and autonomous (independent of human prejudices, power relations, etc.). While it is definitely powerful, it is neither intelligent nor autonomous. Benevolent use of AI calls for critical, socially engaged intelligence on the part of both technologists and ordinary citizens.