A South Asian Approach to STEM

Asha loves science

Mom creates South Asian Character to Talk About STEM

Best of 2016

Best of 2016-Top Read

In an era of STEM and cultural misconceptions, parents everywhere are trying to find ways to make knowledge work for kids to empower them. One mom has done just that.

Author Najla Ahmad created Asha Loves Science, a series of interactive sing-along books, with songs you can find on YouTube. The tunes are easy to follow and catchy. There are no subtitles, but the book has the lyrics, so it is easy to figure out.  The book is illustrated with attractive pictures. The phrases are simple and catchy, especially when you sing them along.

Asha is a curious girl of South Asian heritage. She speaks Urdu and Hindi at home, and she loves science! All kids love science, and Asha makes it look even more attractive!

 

Najla Ahmad

 

Author, Najla Ahmad was inspired to create Asha’s character after her own childhood experiences.

As someone who was born and raised in America with South Asian heritage, I always knew to never expect any of the characters in the shows I watched to look like me. There were never South Asian North American characters in the media unless they were there to fill a stereotypical role.

“Now I have two daughters of my own, and I realized that after all these years, the situation has not changed much. I also have a PhD in Computer Science and I personally experienced the imbalance in the number of men and women in scientific fields. As I watched my own daughters, I wondered what I could do to show them that science is amazing and fun.”  Asha Loves Science is a series of YouTube videos and children’s books featuring science and South Asian North American culture and language.

“I created Asha Loves Science as a way for kids of all backgrounds to be able to learn about South Asian American culture. I want to
normalize the fact that South Asian North Americans are North Americans, too. I created a female character who loves science so kids
of all genders can see that science is fun for everyone.”  She has also launched the first book and first set of videos on YouTube.

We had a chance to ask Najla about Asha Loves Science and the current gap it fills.

 What gap does it fill in the current market?

Currently, there are no South Asian American characters for young children. There are very few South Asian American characters for older
children and adults. Media representation has been shown to have a direct influence on a child’s self esteem and acceptance by their peers. Asha Loves Science provides a role model that looks like a portion of the population that isn’t represented in the media.

How did you design  it and with what audience in mind?  Asha Loves science

Asha Loves Science is aimed at preschool and elementary aged students. I created a world full of bright colors and engaging characters to
keep children excited and entertained.

How can kids use the information?

Learning practical science helps children improve their critical thinking skills, deepens their understanding of the world around them,
and encourages a love of learning.

What do they learn exactly and how is it diff from what they might learn at school?

A lot of times, when children learn science at school, they are learning chapter by chapter in order to pass a test. Instead of this, Asha Loves Science focuses on the questions that kids have. Kids are curious and when they see the world around them, they wonder how it works. There is science in everything they see. Having critical thinking skills and a curiosity about the world is beneficial whether or not a child pursues a career in a STEM field.

How long did it take you to launch this ? what challenges did you overcome? Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 11.59.46 PM

It took about a year to launch. It was difficult to balance the amount of work it takes to launch a new endeavor and having two young kids. I
do all of the writing and animation myself, which is much more time consuming than I had originally imagined! Though the hours are long, I
am enjoying every minute of it.

Why is science still so important for South Asian girls given that we have grown up with the message that science is important, how does your project change the conversation around ‘academics’?

We  are often taught that learning STEM concepts will lead to a great career in fields like medicine and engineering. However, there is beauty and science in everything a child may be interested in. An artist can learn about the chemistry behind different types of paint. A musician can learn about acoustics and sound waves. A park ranger can learn about ecosystems. An interest and understanding of STEM can lead to an almost infinite number of hobbies and jobs.

Where can parents purchase this product?

The first Asha Loves Science book can be found on Amazon . The videos are on the Asha Loves Science YouTube
channel. I put up new videos on the YouTube channel often! Stay up to date with all the latest Asha Loves Science
books and videos on our Facebook page: facebook.com/AshaLovesScience


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