Kirsti: I am not really into buying lots of crap….errr, I mean material things.*
In lieu of purchasing further material possessions this Christmas, I suggest you consider giving experiences, education or donations to science projects. Experiences can really grab our attention and help us form emotional connections with concepts and ideas. It’s our emotional experience that will keep us coming back to science, and that’s surely a good thing.
I’m also a big fan of this rule for buying Christmas presents: something to read, something to do, something to share and something to wear. It is akin to rules across the internet for giving gifts to children, like this one at SimpleKids.
So, to the details! Here are Science for Life.365’s top 10 + 1 science gift ideas for 2014!
- A visit to a science centre
Australia has a science centre in nearly every major city, except Darwin. Plus there are heaps of great smaller regional centres, like the Discovery Science & Technology Centre in Bendigo, the Science Centre & Planetarium in Wollongong and the small Zoology Museum at the University of New England in Armidale (where I’m based).
Australia’s national science centre, Questacon, has holiday workshops and some fabulous shows and summer exhibitions on. Get there if you can. In Melbourne head for ScienceWorks or the Melbourne Museum; in Sydney the Powerhouse and Australian Museums; in Brisbane the Queensland Museum; in Adelaide the South Australian Museum (Sarah might even meet you there!); and in Perth, get to Scitech.
Giving a little ticket for a day’s outing to one of these mind expanding venues would be a welcome envelope under my tree.
- Donation to a crowd funded science project
Crowd funding sites Pozible, KickStarter and IndiGoGo are securing much needed money from interested and passionate citizens for some phenomenal projects, including using 3D printing in educational settings, getting into remote PNG mountains to discover rare and endangered mammals, and a ridiculously comprehensive board game on ANTS!
If you want to see science succeed in the face of budget cuts, changing national priorities and intense competition in academia, contribute to a project yourself. There are many and varied rewards to be gained, including the satisfaction that you’ve helped a project that might not otherwise have been undertaken get off the ground.
Power to the citizens….
- Subscription to COSMOS, New Scientist or Australasian Science
Magazines represent lots of things for me – time to myself, acknowledgement of my own interests, and my desire to keep up to date with what’s going on in a particular sphere; in this case, science.
Whether it is a digital or paper subscription, this is a gift that will keep on giving for as long as the subscription lasts. You can receive COSMOS magazine bi-monthly, New Scientist or Australasian Science once a month or the magazine of your choice whenever you want it.
Remember to keep them in an easily accessible location. Hell, keep whole sets if you own them. Remember when National Geographic magazines used to be a centre piece of every 1980’s bookshelf? Hours of entertainment! You never know when a school project will require a trip to the magazine rack.
- DNA artwork
Check this out! You can have your very own DNA on your wall at home. The DNA and fingerprint portraits are really snazzy, and teamed with the right colour scheme, oh darling…I’m almost feeling like an interior decorator!
- Laboratory beaker mug
Mugs are a classic gift. Let’s face it, mugs are not only good for Christmas, but birthdays, teacher presents, Valentine’s Day, Mum and Dad days, leaving present….. you get the picture. They hold coffee, tea, water, juice, flowers, nuts, soup, pens & pencils, chemistry experiments….
THIS glass mug that doubles as a beaker….. or, a beaker that doubles as a mug….. is just perfect for your science loving, tea drinking coffee connoisseur. Just keep it on your desk rather than in the tearoom cupboard. It may go missing.
- Some more DNA to play with
Anyone with kids will be familiar with K’NEX – modular building shapes that create anything from fantasy creatures to accurate DNA replication models. There’s a huge online international community dedicated to K’NEX building, and includes competitions and ideas for new structures all the time. Kid engineering heaven.
So why not invest in a DNA replication and transcription set? As well as being used as a teaching tool, the pieces can be connected and contorted with your imagination to make quite literally anything.
George Aranda of Science Book A Day has got literally that – a science book a day for over a year, and he’s only just getting going! This is a blog that — if you’re into science, reading, and anything related to reading science — you MUST follow.
There are interviews with authors, reviews and ratings of science books from across disciplines, and for a real diversity of interests and age groups. From the blog, all you really need to do is log onto your favourite online bookstore and place your order. I know it’s possibly a bit late for this Christmas, but I guarantee you will be bookmarking this site for future reference.
Our world is made up of molecules, so why not bling yourself up with your favourite mood enhancer?! At Made With Molecules, you can choose between caffeine, serotonin, vanillin, water, dopamine, ethanol, theobromine and many many more.
Yale-educated scientist-turned-artist Raven Hanna is inspired by nature, and donates at least 1% of her profits to science education and environmental non-profit organisations.
- Ant iPhone cover…
OK, so this one is a bit self-indulgent. Ants are everywhere, have adapted to a huge diversity of environments, are important ecosystem engineers and will no doubt inherit the Earth. Remind people of this as often as possible with this awesome RedBubble iPhone case!
- A day of citizen science
Citizen science is the new black. You can do science. ANYONE can do science. Families can do science. Together! So perhaps one of the experiences you earmark for the summer holidays is a citizen science project together, or maybe a whole swag of projects. It is fulfilling to have contributed data to a real scientific study. Furthermore, in my experience, participating in these sorts of activities empowers kids and adults alike to ask questions about their immediate environments, homes and communities, and sometimes endeavour to answer them.
In Australia there are some fabulous online biodiversity libraries that you can contribute to. RedMap allows you to upload photos and observations of marine creatures you come across, and the Atlas of Living Australia and BowerBird sites do the same thing for land and water based creatures and plants. You might also want to discover what ants are in your backyard with the Australian School of Ants.
You can choose from a plethora of US-based projects like web-based investigations at Zooniverse, including transcribing old field naturalist notes and searching for planets to finding or more about the wild life of your own bodies at YourWildLife. Swab your belly button for bacteria or read stories about the invisible world of our homes, bodies and whole lives.
- A piece of Mars
Yes, you can own a small piece of Mars. ThinkGeek, an online store for themed gifts, have done it again with authentic 2mg particles from space. Unearthed from Northwest Africa, these Mars rocks from Martian shergottite NWA 4930, 4880, 4468, 998, Tissint and others come in their own protective shell and with their history.
So if you don’t get a chance to live on terraformed Mars in your lifetime, be happy with the knowledge that Mars came to you.
*But I will admit to coveting a beaker coffee mug, serotonin necklace, plenty of those books and that iPhone cover……
[photo thanks to Slimmer_Jimmer on flickr]