You may scoff at the thought of cheerleaders, but these women are a lot more than a bunch of dancing pom poms.

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Darlene Cavalier, a former professional cheerleader herself, has created The Science Cheerleaders. I believe in the project so much that I shot this short video two weeks ago at the U.S. Science and Engineering Festival in Washington D.C., which gives you a little sample of who they are. It was their first official public event. They were a huge hit. Gooooooo Science! (btw, if anyone in the D.C. area needs an outstanding cameraman/editor I’d be glad to put you in touch with Brandon Garcia who did camera and editing)

SWEEPING THE NATION WITH MOTIVATION

A long, long time ago I formed the very firm opinion that what’s needed far more than education is MOTIVATION. It’s very, very easy to educate motivated students, and almost impossible to educate the unmotivated. In today’s world, anyone motivated to learn something can just go to the internet and start searching. There’s a surplus of educational resources, yet a dire shortage of motivation. Which is why I’ve been a fan of the Science Cheerleader project since I first heard the concept two years ago. It is ALL about motivation.

In 2008 somebody sent me a goofy video about the efforts to get the Presidential candidates to talk about science. There was something so creative about the video that I ended up wanting to meet the person behind it. I found out it was made by “The Science Cheerleader,” Darlene Cavalier. She’s a former professional cheerleader for the Philadelphia 76’ers NBA basketball team who retired from cheerleading and got a Masters degree in Science Policy.

A couple of years ago she had an interesting thought — she wondered if there might be other professional cheerleaders who were also interested in science. “What she found surprised her” (that has to be one of the most over-used lines in science documentaries — “What they found surprised them …”). But it did surprise her, and it surprises me just as much as it surprises most people who hear her tell that she now has a list of over 50 current and former NFL cheerleaders who are science and engineering professionals in their “day jobs.”

And that’s without even starting to count NBA cheerleaders.

A VISION ON THE VERGE. Darlene Cavalier, rehearsing with the Science Cheerleaders, at midnight the night before their first public performance.

IN THE END, IT’S THE STORIES …

Which means this isn’t a fluke, a quirk or even a novelty. There are A LOT of professional cheerleaders who are seriously interested in science and other STEM stuff. And when you watch this little video we made you see the women aren’t just vaguely connected with┬áscience careers — they are the real deal.

In each of the interviews the women also told their personal stories of discrimination, harassment and even abuse for being cheerleaders. We didn’t want to drag this first video down with the heaviness of their stories. But we will, eventually, make use of that material. They have fascinating stories which are not the least bit predictable.

Which is why this entire project captures my interest as a filmmaker.

Lots more stories to tell in the near future. Goooo Darlene!