Frequently Asked Questions
Who are the Science Cheerleaders and what do they do?
The Science Cheerleaders are professional cheerleaders pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers who playfully challenge stereotypes, turn everyone onto science by encouraging participation in citizen science activities, and inspire young women (including 3-4 million U.S. cheerleaders) to consider careers in STEM. We do this by recasting the image of scientists and engineers while giving people the opportunity to explore their personal interests as a gateway to science. We communicate in ways that inspire people using our very real, very personal stories. We do this at schools, festivals, malls, on tv, online, at cheer events, games, bars…wherever the people are! The point: science is accessible to ALL!
More than 200 current and former professional cheerleaders from the NFL, NBA, and other pro sports leagues, pursuing science and engineering careers make up the Science Cheerleaders. Learn more about them here. Thousands of college, high school and middle school cheerleaders–with interests in science and engineering–are poised to join our mission. And we hope, through our partnership with Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., we’ll spark interest in science among their 100,000 young cheerleaders each year!
Why do we need Science Cheerleaders?
Scientific innovations have produced roughly half of all economic growth in the last 50 years. We do not have enough people in the pipeline to supply a science and technology workforce capable of meeting the global, scientific challenges we will face in this century. The U.S. needs to find nontraditional approaches to tap new sources of talent. The Science Cheerleaders have demonstrated an ability to connect to groups traditionally underrepresented in science and technology fields, potentially broadening educational and workforce funnel.
A recent study by the Bayer Foundation found that more than three-quarters of female and minority scientists and engineers polled say significant numbers of women and under- represented minorities are missing from the U.S. STEM workforce today because they were not identified, encouraged or nurtured to pursue STEM studies early on. Key recommendations included: “provide mentors and role models;” and to share the message: “don’t let anyone tell you you can’t [be a scientist].” By tapping into girls’ personal interests, namely, cheerleading, and building confidence in them by sharing real, personal stories of dealing with stereotypes while excelling in science and engineering careers, the Science Cheerleaders are poised to effectively steer the estimated 3-4 million U.S. cheerleaders towards science! In fact, their message is relevant for everyone. Read about our new partnership with Pop Warner cheerleading!
How did the Science Cheerleaders get started?
Darlene Cavalier, a former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader-turned-science advocate, started the blog, Science Cheerleader, in 2006 to spark public engagement in science. Her graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania exposed her to potential solutions to public apathy in science and even ways science policy making can be improved. As the Science Cheerleader, she wanted to broaden public interest in science, get lay people involved in doing real scientific research, and, as a logical extension, help make it possible for “regular” people to weigh in on science policy matters. In the process, she stumbled upon real science cheerleaders: NFL and NBA cheerleaders pursuing science and engineering careers!
As a result, we aim to:
1) Inspire people to connect or re-connect with science (via the Science Cheerleaders)
2) Engage people in real-world science through citizen science projects we activate at events and appearances (via SciStarter)
3) Empower people to weigh in on science policy discussions in need of their informed insights (via Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology)
What have the Science Cheerleaders done so far?
Science Cheerleader, NBC Sports, NBC Learn, the NFL and the National Science Foundation partnered up to produce an Emmy award-winning video series titled The Science of NFL Football. Our first performance, at the U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., October, 2010, was made possible by the support of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.
Since then, the Science Cheerleaders kicked off Women’s History Month by special invitation of the White House and NASA; helped launch the Philadelphia Science Festival; taught bar patrons about the science of football during a televised Monday Night Football game; guest lectured at schools and universities; and participated in dozens of media interviews and video projects. We’ve performed in Las Vegas where we taught fans how to get involved in citizen science projects; led strawberry DNA extractions at the Maker Faire in NYC; set a new Guinness World Record with Pop Warner for the World’s Largest Cheerleading Cheer (we cheered for science, of course!). We teach science through cheers tied to formal research projects and we mentor students.
We joined forces with the Eisen Lab at UC Davis to launch a research project to compare microbes on Earth and in space (aboard the International Space Station)! We enlisted thousands of people to join this research project and sent 48 microbial samples to space where they competed in a Microbial Super Bowl in Space! See Project MERCCURI for details.
AND…have a free ebook about the Science of Cheerleading, made possible through a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund!
Anyone paying attention to the Science Cheerleaders?
Yes. Thanks for asking. Here’s a short list of recent acknowledgments:
Cavalier is the proud recipient of a Shuttleworth Foundation Flash Grant to support “people with brilliant ideas” and she is investing that grant in the development of a series of media partnerships to help bring more citizen science opportunities to more communities.The Ashoka’s Changemakers named Cavalier a “Social Innovator for the Public” Cavalier has been a featured speaker at Harvard, Stanford, WVU, Temple, U of MN, SXSW, NY Academy of Sciences, Netroots Nation, Council of Science Editors and more and has written for Discover Magazine, Science Progress, NY Academy of Sciences.
Cavalier and the Science Cheerleaders have been featured on CNN, NPR, ESPN, CBS, FOX National Headline News, Science Magazine (who called the Science Cheerleaders “superheroes of science”), Discover Magazine, the Washington Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Newsweek.com, American Cheerleader magazine, Toronto Star and more, including several international publications. See news clips if you’d like to learn more. This month, our sister site, SciStarter, announced a formal partnership with the National Science Teachers Association to bring more opportunities to get involved in science to more people. SciStarter already partners with Discover Magazine , the Public Library of Science, and WHYY.
Check out the Science Cheerleaders on NBC Nightly News (1/31/2015)
How can I get involved?
Darlene, Bart, and John are always looking for volunteers to help with events, recruit more Science Cheerleaders, produce videos, write blog posts, help with web design and programming, link us to schools and cheerleading organizations, and more. . Interested? Email Darlene@sciencecheerleader.com
Otherwise, kindly follow us on Twitter or Instagram (@TheSciCheers), friend us on Facebook, and sign up to receive our free newsletter!
How can I support the Science Cheerleaders?
We are SO glad you asked! We’re seeking sponsors who can support us and help grow our programs. Please fill out a contact form and we’ll get back to you in a flash! Since every contribution helps, consider donating to our cause through PayPal.
Is Science Cheerleaders a 501(c)3 organization?
It’s official! We are a recognized 501(c)3 organization. All donations are tax deductible and you can shop with us on Amazon Smile! Just select Science Cheerleaders, Inc and Amazon will automatically donate a percent of your purchase to us!