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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Brief update with good news on Kiera Wilmot

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

16-05-2013 14:38 CDT

Topics: personal stories

Two weeks ago I wrote about Kiera Wilmot, a teen girl who was expelled from her school and charged with two felonies for unsupervised messing around with a chemical reaction on school grounds. Yesterday the Orlando Sentinel reported that no charges are being filed against her, which removes the greatest threat to her future. She has been "diverted" into a probationary-type program (this is the same kind of thing I experienced as a teen, and in my case, it was effective). She has still been expelled from her school; her lawyer is now focusing on enabling her to return to her high school for her final year. This online fundraiser for her legal fees is legitimate (according to blogger Danielle Lee, who heard it from Kiera's mother).

Thanks to Twitter and other social media, Kiera and her twin sister Kayla have been offered all kinds of support and opportunities for internships -- there is even an online fundraiser to send the two to Space Camp this summer. Which is awesome, but not entirely satisfying to me. Because you know that for every human interest story that lands in a newspaper, there are thousands of similar stories that never get that kind of attention. Which means there are thousands of other children out there whose scientific curiosity never finds an outlet. There are very likely many other cases where a teen's natural fascination with fire and things that go boom has landed them in juvenile hall. There are probably more cases, though, where a child has had the self-control not to experiment with dangerous things -- and thus never enjoys the joy of scientific exploration of their world at all. How do we reach those kids? How can those of us who have had the lifetime privilege of a supportive and encouraging environment provide underprivlieged kids who have the aptitude and curiosity for science with the same privileges?

The following blog post provides some examples. I met immunologist and science blogger Caleph Wilson through Twitter as a result of the online conversation about Kiera Wilmot. Wilson has recently started a Facebook page called First Generation STEM, focused on issues surrounding access to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and careers for children whose families have no experience in those careers. I asked him to provide some concrete examples of how scientists can help all the Kieras out there whose stories are not in the newspapers.

See other posts from May 2013


Or read more blog entries about: personal stories


Doug: 05/16/2013 07:21 CDT

This is good to hear. Thanks for following this. Now, as to the "thousands of other children out there whose scientific curiosity never finds an outlet", that's one thing I don't bemoan about Kiera. Let's be careful here. She found an outlet, but that outlet was quite dangerous, to both herself and others, who might not have been thinking that they were exercising curiosity. That harmless sounding "pop", with concentrated HCl, could have hurt someone badly. The lesson here isn't that kids don't have such outlets for their curiosity, but some don't know what boundaries responsible scientists place on such outlets. The other lesson here is that Kiera's school needs to be teaching more than metals dissolving in acid, but about responsibility as students to their school. The school ought to offer kids outlets for natural curiosity to be exercised in a safe, and legally permissible way. How might they do that? Well, a science teacher could say, look, if you want to try something with a dangerous substance, come to me, and lets figure out how to do it right. As a parent, I hope my kids get to exercise their scientific curiosity, but if I found out that my kids were getting exposed to "pops" with concentrated HCl on school property, with no adult supervision, I'd be livid! So would you.

Bob Ware: 05/16/2013 10:12 CDT

Hi Emily - Thanks for step one of great news. Lets hope she gets step two, expulsion revoked. As for kids getting science experience: This idea I just had is out there and BN will probably seek me out for revenge! LOL!!! --- If he could record many different science projects for the various school levels (k-12) that would have some related issue to space science and maybe some other buddies do other science, then the TPS could sell these to the schools at a 'school' rate. The teachers could run this recorded experiments in a special program after school as instruction then they could guide the students while the actually do it, as a class or individually. That of course is decided by them. Society would benefit and financially so would the TPS. If they don't want to do the experiment or can't at lease they have the recorded experiment to learn from. That is a small bit but a large bite above what most schools have budget for. It can only help to try.

Zorbonian : 05/22/2013 10:43 CDT

Yeah - Doug pretty much echoes my sentiments.

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