In today's world, with children growing up surrounded by instant access to content and information through social media, the internet, and AI breakthroughs like ChatGPT, it can be challenging to get them interested in important topics such as climate change. However, using art and storytelling can be an effective strategy for introducing complex subjects in a way that is both engaging and accessible to young minds.
A staunch believer in sparking kids' interest in science through reading, Filipina geologist Alyssa Peleo-Alampay—a seasoned professor at the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS) at the University of the Philippines—thought of a way to share her knowledge about the earth and climate change to children. Dr. Alampay wanted to share with young readers her decades of experience working in science.
“[I believe that] no matter who you are, you can be a change agent. I really feel that I want to effect change, no matter how small or how big it could be,” said Dr. Alampay, who holds a doctoral degree in earth science from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, in an interview with Reporting ASEAN. Dr. Alampay was also a Balik Scientist Awardee of the Department of Science and Technology and was one of The Outstanding Women in the Nation's Service in 2007.
Together with the artists of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK), they created the activity book I Am the Change in Climate Change. It was published by the Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (CANVAS) in 2021.
The book, designed for children aged 6 to 12, features child-friendly illustrations, age-appropriate language, and interactive activities based on science. It aims to raise a generation that can make a real difference in responding to climate change. Its pages are filled with activities, lessons, and trivia about the causes and effects of climate change in the Philippines and the world. It also emphasizes the actions that kids can take to address it.
By combining science, art, and storytelling, I Am the Change in Climate Change engages children's interest in environmental issues and empowers them to become agents of change. Initiatives like this encourage environmental responsibility and awareness among young people, creating a more environmentally conscious and sustainable future.
I Am the Change in Climate Change was selected by a jury of young readers to be included in the Kids’ Choice list at the 7th National Children’s Book Awards by The Philippine Board on Books for Young People.
Below, Looking for Juan talks with Dr. Alampay to learn more about the author, her experiences, and the challenges and successes of being a woman in STEM.
What inspired you to become a geologist?
I have always been interested in science since I was young. I like the outdoors, too. So geology, as a course and profession, appealed to me because it involves fieldwork, and you either climb mountains or swim or be in the sea.
Were there any advantages and prejudices of being a woman in your field? How how did you overcome these?
The women represented another voice and another perspective—that's an advantage. However, there were also prejudices back then. Most underground mines before would not admit females. Most jobs for exploration that required fieldwork, which we all loved to do as young geologists, were limited to males. Male professors would often single us out for being different from the males in class just because we were female. We were told to perform better and prove ourselves more than our male peers. I found that unfair even then. But I just moved forward since I decided I wanted to be part of the academe to teach and do research in geology.
Do you have any realizations from your years of being a female geologist?
I think we, women, have achieved a lot in the profession. Many passionate women geologists have spent their lives in the profession. After a while, being female was not the issue, but doing well and contributing to the science and geology profession we all loved became more important. Gender doesn't matter anymore.
In your opinion, which changes are needed in the country's scientific field in terms of inclusivity?
There still is a need to increase the number of STEM women overall. The country needs it. There are still pockets of traditional thinking of gender roles, where women can only do certain jobs. It may also be that it needs more promotion among younger kids so they can start an interest in science early.
Reading can be a key to widening perspectives so that women will no longer have to overcome gender prejudices to do something they would find interesting or continue to do something they love. But being discerning and critical citizens is also what we need. They may be reading but cannot discern well.
What projects or organizations are you currently working on? How will it make a difference?
We are in the process of publishing a book on the microfossils that we do our research on, the coccolithophores, focusing on the Philippines so that more people can learn about them. With graduate student researchers, we are continuously improving our institute's museum while developing a virtual museum so that the collection can be accessed anywhere.
We are also reviving the Paleontological Society of the Philippines so fossil experts and enthusiasts can have a venue to discuss, do meaningful activities, and promote paleontology.
What’s your advice for girls wanting to pursue science?
For young girls, keep reading and learning about things. If you are interested in it, pursue it. Ask questions. Be curious. Don't let criticisms get you down because it's part of learning.