Encouraging youth into STEM courses and careers starts in infancy for some families.

March-MegsBooks-postSTEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math, coined by the United State’s National Science Foundation in the 1990’s. More recently, educators have been seeking ways to increase the number of young people, and especially girls, studying STEM subjects, and embarking on STEM careers.

Parents are promoting STEM to their children too, some starting in infancy. Pennsylvania software engineer and mom Kelly Mathews is starting her daughter’s awareness of science, technology, engineering, and math before she’s even had her first birthday.

Kelly reads Rosie Revere, Engineer and HTML for Babies to her nine month old daughter, to introduce her to STEM subjects, and empower her to explore these areas as she grows.

How can we interest young people, and especially girls to embrace STEM subjects? Expose them to science, technology, engineering and math concepts from an early age, and read to them! I found it interesting that while Kelly Mathew’s masters degree is in computer science, her bachelor’s degree is in English literature!

Kelly is also working towards bridging the gender gap in STEM areas by working with a non-profit group in Pennsylvania, called TechGirlz, who work with girls in middle-schools.

As a children’s author of historical fiction (and teacher to the core) I write stories about truly heroic scientists, from the point of view of Lexi Catt, a lively feline who has spent his nine lives living with scientists throughout history. In honour of Women’s History Month, and the desire to promote STEM to young people, I invite you to share Lexi’s tale of his life with Marie Curie. Marie Curie was a STEM pioneer, winning two Nobel Prizes, and saving more than a million lives and limbs in World War I.

Associate Professor of Law and Director, Centre for Feminist Legal Studies, University of British Columbia, Janine Benedet says, “This is a fascinating and unusual book for readers in intermediate grades. Lexi and Marie Curie introduces readers to the amazing story of scientist Marie Curie, whose isolation of radium, among other discoveries, led to her being awarded the Nobel Prize in both Physics and Chemistry. Shut out of much of the formal scientific academy, Marie forges her own path, one that paves the way for her daughters and for generations of girls and women whose curiosity is sparked by ‘STEM’ — science, technology, engineering, and math.”


The August Guns – 1914

Death is cruel when it’s so unexpected.

When thoughts of defense are neglected.

Is it too much to ask

When viewing one’s past

To live life in peace as expected?


People think being neutral protects

Like a coat – or a moat – or a vest.

But they discard denial

When faced with the trial

Of destruction and murder grotesque.


A farmer tends fields for the fall crop’s yields;

He stops – disbelief in his ears.

Dropping his plow

He whispers, “What now?”

August guns make him run from his fears.


A grocer stocks jars to make wealth

As he hums an old tune to himself.

When the jars start to shake

He thinks it’s a quake

Until bullets put holes in his shelf.


A house wife is mopping her floor

Annoyed that her back is so sore.

A “boom” stuns her brain

She forgets her back pain

When explosions destroy her front door.


The summer guns wipe out the quiet.

The people no longer deny it.

The August guns roar

Pulling all into war.

And folks take up arms to defy it.


When noisy invaders pass through

Leaving nothin but ruins to view

Sickened at heart

Folks sadly start

To put life together like new.


As friend joins with friend – together to mend

Some far-away folk come to aid.

It takes many years

And millions of tears

Before bells can announce peace is made.


by Marian Keen


The War to End All Wars – Not!

TheProvince-20140807-Kent-Spencer-300To prepare for my book, Lexi and Marie Curie Saving Lives in World War I, I discovered Marie’s role as a war heroine. It was necessary therefore to know more about the war in order to paint the background in detail. In the research the First World War was called “the war to end all wars.” Of course, it didn’t end wars; but it did change how they are fought.

After I wrote the following post on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, I was amazed to read Kent Spencer’s article in the August 7, 2014 issue of the Province. Mr. Spencer’s article supported the points I was making in my post so beautifully that I altered my post to include quotes from Mr. Spencer’s article. In recognition of the Centenary of World War I, please consider the following thoughts.

Since time began, men have settled differences by fighting. Fighting began hand to hand. Soon stones and blades became weapons. Men next made swords and spears – ever seeking to distance themselves from the killing.

The bow and arrow increased the distance, and then guns and canons increased the distance even more. But accuracy became a concern so leaders lined up their bowmen and later riflemen to increase the number of enemy destroyed. This was accepted practice until the American Revolutionary War, when the colonists took cover and shot at the British soldiers all lined up. (The British didn’t think that practice was fair at all!)

One hundred forty years later, French soldiers and soldiers from Newfoundland were ordered to march – not charge – into enemy fire. They were slain by machine gun fire. Thus trench warfare evolved as the soldiers on both sides hid. Always inventing more lethal means, gas warfare and long distance canons were added to the mix. These weapons, with more range, grew more lethal, more accurate, and even rained down from the skies.

The Province newspaper’s Kent Spencer wrote about Corporal Filip Konowal, a Ukranian Canadian and WWI war hero, on August 7, 2014

Corporal Konowal was awarded the Victoria Cross for single-handedly destroying nests of enemy troops and their machine guns with his bare hands and bayonet. Spencer’s article includes a quote from Konowal, “I was so fed up standing in the trench with water to my waist, that I said the hell with it and started after the German army. My captain tried to shoot (me) because he figured I was deserting.”

In Spencer’s article, Professor Lubomyr Luciuk of Kingston’s Royal Military College commented, “The bayonet was up close and personal,” referring to the corporal’s actions.

In my opinion, the soldiers who take personal action, these are the men who are often labelled ‘heroes’.

Today, Man has invented weapons that do his dirty work for him and keep him so far from the killing that he doesn’t even admit responsibility for it. Today, men sit in computer rooms controlling flying, robotic drones, and kill people continents away.

Yes, man is very clever, very inventive, and more distant from the killing, but he hasn’t worked out how to avoid wars in the first place …

… yet.

The men who figure out how to end wars altogether will be the heroes of the future.


Lest we Forget

poppyEvery November the poppy reminds us … of what?

What does the phrase “lest we forget” and the little red flower remind you of?

Of war? More than that. Of veterans? More than them. Of bravery? More than that. We are reminded of our culture and what it stands for, because that is exactly what the brave soldiers fought for.

Around the globe people are observing the 100th anniversary of the start of the “War to end all wars,” World War I. There was a ceremony in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, on August 4th. Prime Minister Stephen Harper laid a wreath at the National War Memorial, and, recounting how 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders* fought in WWI he said, “Canada is still today loyal to our friends, unyielding to our foes, honourable in our dealings, and courageous in our undertakings. This remains the character of our country.”

There is a series on CBC TV on Sunday nights called The Doc Zone, and their recent series entitled THE GREAT WAR re-enacts scenes of WWI in England, France, and Belgium. http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/episodes/the-great-war-part-1

The producers of THE GREAT WAR explain, “In 2005, CBC-TV and Galafilm put out a call to descendants of Canadian First World War soldiers to participate in the living history component of the Great War project. Over 6,500 Canadians applied and 150 made the final cut to take part in vivid battle recreations, and to experience what their ancestors went through in the killing grounds of Europe. Of the 150, 14 descendants were chosen for a special mission – to travel to the battlefields of England, France and Belgium where their ancestors fought and sometimes gave their lives.

“In documentary style, THE GREAT WAR follows the 14 young men and women – representing a cross-section of Canada – as they voyage through time to understand their ancestors’ experience as soldiers and nurses at the front. Viewers will watch as the great-grandchildren relive the horror of that time and how they are transformed by it.”

It is so important to pass on our cultural stories and through them, our principles and ideals to our children. Let truth, justice, steadfast courage, and freedom from tyranny, pass on to our children and keep us strong.

*Newfoundland was a colony and dominion of the United Kingdom until March 1949, when it became the 10th province of Canada.