Saturday, June 23, 2012

Teaching Science to Kids

In addition to my normal research this summer, I'm working as a teacher for a local science center.  This science center serves a lot of functions in the community, but I primarily work as a camp teacher, introducing various aspects of science to elementary and middle school aged children through the vehicle of day camps.  The camps are intensively hands-on and tons of fun, and I think they do a great job making science into something that the kids can really get excited about.

I've always been really interested in science education.  It's sort of a natural extension:  because I love science, I have a hard time understanding why people don't connect to it.  I really enjoy sharing my excitement about these subjects with the kids.  But I think there's also a broader, and more pragmatic, view to be taken:  science literacy is increasingly necessary to fully understand both public and private life, and it's a lot easier to teach people about things they like and think are cool first.

There are huge divides in this country over issues that are, at their root, scientific.  These include global warming (of course), nuclear weapons and evolution...the list doesn't really end.  A really large part of the population (probably a strong majority) doesn't understand what the science behind these issues actually says.  Furthermore, many of these issues impinge on religious faith and cultural norms.  Convincing people to change their behavior over problems that they do not understand and feel threatened by is always going to be incredibly difficult.  If we do science education right, however, we could end up with a new generation that has a better grasp on issues like these - and a generation that has a passion for solving these problems.

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