Have you ever heard of an eight-year-old scientist? And said scientist being a little girl that loves insects?
This is the story of a little girl who was born with a love for insects and lucky enough to have a mother sensitive enough to take appropriate action when her daughter was rejected and teased by her peers for being weird.
Sophia Spencer’s fascination with insects has led to what must be a world first – she is a junior author of a paper in a scientific journal. All because her mother honored her special interest and entomologists across the world embraced the little girl.
Sophia’s mother Nicole, contacted the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC) last year because she was concerned about the effect on Sophia being rejected by her peers at school for her fascination with bugs. She wrote an email explaining the situation and asked if it was possible for a professional entomologist to speak to Sophia over the phone to encourage her love and explain to her how she could make this into a career.
What happened next is just amazing.
The ESC shared Nicole’s email on their Twitter account with a new hashtag #BugsR4Girls, and soon entomologists from the U.K. to Australia responded with offers of lab tours, equipment and books about bugs, reported thestar.com at the time. Entomologists the world over posted words of encouragement and pictures of themselves holding creepy crawlies.
In the end the tweet reached more than a million people and its success has become the subject of a paper published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, for a special edition on science communication.
Here’s the best part:
Sophia got invited to be a co-author on the paper. She wrote on her experience as result of the tweet that went viral.
“My favorite bugs are snails, slugs, and caterpillars, but my favorite one of all is grasshoppers. Last year in the fall I had a best bug friend and his name was Hoppers,” she starts off in the paper.
“After my mom sent the message and showed me all the responses, I was happy .. It felt good to have so many people support me, and it was cool to see other girls and grown-ups studying bugs.
“It made me feel like I could do it too, and I definitely, definitely, definitely want to study bugs when I grow up, probably grasshoppers.”
This is a special moment for girls and women.
This whole story, from Sophia’s unfortunate experiences at school to her mother reaching out to the ESC and the subsequent outpouring of support for Sophia and her interest in insects, is a sign of greater awareness around stereotypes of what girls are expected to be.
Just imagine how different the world would have been if more little girls like Sophia could have escaped the usual stereotypical: “Girls don’t play with bugs!” or similar limiting attitudes.
We would have had many more female scientists, engineers, politicians, programmers, economists, newspaper editors and movie directors.
Kudos to Nicole for being such a supportive and enlightened mother!