Sara MacSorley published the second Super Cool Scientists coloring book this month, which celebrates “a diverse cohort of dynamic women” working in a wide range of STEM careers. Through diverse representation, she aims to help young people envision themselves in STEM careers. She hopes that every reader will find a scientist they connect with in her books.
The coloring books are beautiful and well-done. They feature illustrations of female scientists alongside biographies about their life and work. Their most unique characteristic is that they focus on today’s female scientists — real women making an impact on their field. Sara makes an effort to include scientists who represent women from all backgrounds. In addition, both books include a list of resources for women interested in science as well as a glossary of scientific vocabulary used throughout the biographies. These books make an excellent gift for an aspiring young scientist or college student who loves coloring books, and they’re perfect for both kids and adults.
I reached out to Sara to learn more about her efforts to represent diversity and inclusion in STEM, and to get copies of BOTH Super Cool Scientists coloring books into the hands of one lucky reader for this month’s Read More Science book giveaway. Sign up for the Read More Science Book Club, my monthly newsletter for readers, and you’ll have a chance to win the Super Cool Scientists coloring books. You’ll also be automatically entered to win other exciting new science books in upcoming giveaways!
Congratulations on publishing the second Super Cool Scientists coloring book! Making STEM more inclusive is a big problem to tackle. How do you foresee your books making a difference?
Thank you! Diversity and inclusion in STEM is a layered issue for sure. I see it as having three main parts. One, representation. Representation is where we recognize and celebrate the diverse women already existing in the STEM space who are doing amazing work. Two, recruitment. Recruitment is where we get young people exposed to, excited about, and interested in STEM careers and setting them up on that path. This part is the fun stuff – science is super cool so it’s easy to get young people interested. Three, retention. Retention is the most challenging work. Retention is where we work to change environments and cultures (long ingrained cultures of sexism, racism, ableism, etc.) to create adapted, truly inclusive spaces where everyone has a sense of belonging.
In all areas, we also have to remember the intersectionality that exists. Not all women are the same. We all have different experiences, different perspectives, and different challenges. It is important to remember when talking about diversity and inclusion that we can’t approach this work and do it well by grouping all women in the same box. There are layered issues that come along with being a black woman in STEM, or a LGBTQ+ woman in STEM, or a disabled woman in STEM.
The Super Cool Scientists books showcase a diverse cohort of women doing super cool work. My hope is that the books show some of that intersectionality to young people because representation matters. I also hope that the books provide extra recognition to today’s women in STEM. I want the featured scientists to know that they are role models for what they do everyday and that their stories are part of the narrative of what scientists look like.
Did you encounter any surprises or challenges while working on book #2?
Life is full of surprises. For starters, I initially hoped to fund the second book with another crowdfunding campaign. However, some professional and personal transitions happened for me during the same time frame as the funding campaign. I didn’t have a much time as I had planned to spend on promoting the project so ultimately that was an unsuccessful round of fundraising.
Challenges are also opportunities (though it’s easier for me to say that than to always believe it when I’m facing challenges myself). It worked out that the original book was so successful that I was able to use those sales to fund the production of the second book.
Were there any “super cool scientist” ladies who initially inspired you to start book #2?
All the super cool scientists from the original book along with all the other super cool supporters of the project inspired me to create a second volume. Creating the original book was such a fun experience that I wasn’t ready to give that up. The feedback was so overwhelmingly positive that I knew people would want more so the idea for a second version got moving pretty quickly.
I have many super cool ladies in my life (some of them, but not all, are scientists). They are my cheerleaders, my consultants, my shoulders to lean (or cry) on, my rocks. I couldn’t have done this without my girls.
What’s the most important message you want readers of the Super Cool Scientists books to walk way with?
The goal of the project from the very beginning was to have every reader who picked up a copy of one of the books find a connection to at least one of the featured scientists. Being a coloring book, there are multiple ways to find connection points – either through the narrative story or the story told through the illustration. I wanted young people to be able to picture themselves in these types of careers and also understand the wide range of careers that exist in STEM. That is why it was so important for us to include many types of jobs in lots of fields and a diverse cohort of dynamic women. The books include women of color, women with disabilities, women who wear hijab, women who are community college graduates, women who are entrepreneurs, women who are mothers, women who are athletes, and so much more.
The message is that science is for everyone – regardless of what you look like, where you come from, or what challenges you have encountered.
Do you have any favorite science books you want to recommend, or other coloring books you enjoy/are inspired by?
I’ve always enjoyed reading so it’s tough to think of favorites. For my own coloring, I tend to like books that have a lot of geometric patterns or mandalas. For science books, I recently finished and would recommend Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (plus the Super Cool Scientists website has a list of resources – including books!). I enjoy anything by Carl Zimmer or Richard Preston. Right now, I’m reading Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone by Julie Berwald.
If you could have the whole world read one book, what would it be?
There are so many amazing books out there. I like reading books that help me think about how I’m living my life and reflect on how I can continue to grow as a person. In recent years, I’ve read several of Pema Chodron’s books including Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. I’d have the whole world read a book that speaks to them in that way. For some that may be a religious text, for others it could be a memoir that speaks to a certain set of experiences. It could be any book that makes us all reflect a little bit more on our own experience and how that relates to the experience of others.
Thank you for the thoughtful answers, Sara!
Itching to get your hands on a copy of these beautiful coloring books? You can purchase both Super Cool Scientists books at www.supercoolscientists.com. You can also follow @SuperCoolSci on Twitter and @SuperCoolScientists on Instagram for updates and more from the coloring book creators.