Becoming Engaged…

It turns out that a really great way of passing the time when listening to someone give a talk is to do some sketch practice. [… wait, what? The post title? Oh! No, no, don’t be silly. Ok., let me continue …] If the subject matter is right, it’s a good thing to do while you focus on what’s being said. This last couple of days I’ve been in Aspen, Colorado, and I’m starting out my visit here with a three day conference entitled “Becoming Engaged: Initiatives That Can Change Science Education”. You can see more about it on a dedicated website hosted by ICAM. One of the people behind it is David Pines, and we’ve had many conversations about science outreach and science education over the years, and so he invited me to participate. I’m supposed to be here at Aspen for my visit to the Aspen Center for Physics, and so I’m only partially attending, opting to to listen to some talks, and take part in some discussions… then going back over to the center to hear some LHC and Higgs chatter on the LHC workshop that is starting up this week.

There are a lot of interesting people talking about science education, and science outreach, many describing their various approaches and projects in short talks and presentations. (I will tell you about some of them in future posts.) It is great to meet several people who are passionate about outreach too, and see what others are up to and share ideas… so this is a valuable time. Hopefully, some action ideas will come of this meeting that will help make a difference.

At the very least, I think (as do others) that if we just find a way to let the various people doing science outreach to know about each other’s efforts in a useful, searchable way – perhaps with a well-maintained database – that would be a tremendous benefit. That way, people can connect and share experience if they want to, or just feel part of a community working toward a common goal… There have been some systems put together that have tried to do that before, I understand, but it is not clear to many that they have had the impact one would hope for…

Anyway, so while some talks were on today, I got a bit of much needed sketching practice done (in service of one of my own outreach projects, remember). Turns out when there is no technical content I’m trying to absorb, sketching is a nice thing to do while listening, with no real distraction… None of them are particularly accurate portraits, as they were quick and the people were moving a lot, but I feel like they are sort of real-person-looking. Hey, my standards are not lofty.


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5 Responses to Becoming Engaged…

  1. Gleanne Marie says:

    I often take a bit of knitting to meetings and conferences. The activity actually allows me to pay closer attention to the speaker – it keeps my wandering mind focused on the two tasks at hand and not the one billion ideas clanging around my brain, offering escapist “rabbit-trails” to follow. When you are speaking, do you find people engaged in handwork or sketching distracting?

  2. Clifford says:


    That makes a lot of sense. Again, for me it must be the right material. During a research talk, where ideas and techniques are being discussed, I don’t want to miss those escapist “rabbit trails” coming form my mind wandering, since that’s where I get good ides from…. complex research ideas that are maybe sparked by what I’m listening to. But during talks of this type, it does not matter so much. I have ideas still, but not of the sort that gets stopped while drawing…

    I’ve had people knitting in talks of mine before. I love it, since I love that craft, and know what they are doing. They are paying attention. I’d imagine the same would be true for sketching too. I don’t think that I’d know if someone was sketching, just like I don’t think that speakers know that I’m sketching…. most people around me don’t know either. They all just think I’m taking notes, most times. Or, they’re all too busy on their laptops – now THERE’s something I hate to see in a talk. Heads down staring at laptops for most of it. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons, I’m sure, but most times it just seems a bit rude, especially if the person is typing away and so forth. But then, perhaps I’m just old-fashioned.


  3. Amy says:

    The title fooled me, too. Very tricky, Dr. Johnson. 😉

  4. Rosy says:

    I was interested to read that you chose to sketch when not required to master any technical input – since this is a hobby of mine – when attending long winded seminars – given I am more visual than audio orientated I tend to draw what I am visualizing as opposed to what I am hearing – and sometimes amaze myself with the accuracy when looking back over my “notes”