Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.
* * *
Kids love science. From dirt and worms to trees and stars, from things they can touch to things that touch them—sunlight and rain and rainbows. They ask “Why?” Their minds are open and they search for answers. As Ken Robinson says in his TED presentation on creativity, “If they don’t know, they’ll have a go.” And “They’re not frightened of being wrong.” They are born scientists.
As kids grow, they pick up tools that help them understand the world. In school they are given the knowledge of what others have figured out about why and how. They gain hands-on experience and a chance to apply what they’ve learned. With water and sunlight, a seed becomes a sprout. Through a telescope, a star becomes a planet. A microscope reveals a whole unseen world in a drop of water.
Life is full of puzzles. How do I share three apples with six friends? I cut them in half…and discover there’s a way to represent that with numbers. How long will it take to bike 5 miles if you can go 10 miles an hour? At 10 cents a glass, how many lemonades do I need to sell to pay for a $3 bag of lemons?
Science goes hand in hand with math. A cricket can jump 20 times its length. How far could I jump if I were a cricket? If sunlight takes 8 minutes to reach the Earth, how far away is the sun? We’re doing science but we’re talking math.
A child who embraces science finds answers he can demonstrate as well as represent with symbols on paper. His solutions are relevant to the real world. This scientific literacy builds self-confidence, which in turn leads to more inquiries and more investigations and more answers.
Then for many students, something happens. Something gets in the way. Something about the way science and math are taught intimidates them, and they begin to tune out. They stop asking questions for fear of seeming dumb (Ibid. Ken Robinson’s TED talk). And they gradually leave behind the math and science that used to be such fun.
I was inspired to think about this by a blog by Lara Faye Tenenbaum in the Huffington Post titled Science Isn’t Just for NASA: You Can Bust Out Your Own Science Spark. Tenenbaum is a science communications specialist with the Earth science team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that studies global climate change. She also teaches oceanography at Glendale Community College.
Tenenbaum asks the right questions: Why do many young students think they aren’t smart enough to become scientists? Why do adults often say ‘I used to be good in math’ or ‘I used to love science when I was young’?
What would the world be like today if more people nurtured their inner scientist?
A few RESOURCES:
The Young Child and Mathematics by Juanita V. Copley, NAEYC, 2010.
Four Magic Words: YOU CAN LEARN ANYTHING.
“When will I use math?” a common question students ask math teachers. Check out We Use Math.
Mashable: How do we get more students interested in math, science, and STEM careers?
Like science but still can’t warm up to math? Some good–if anti-math–news from the Wall Street Journal: Great Scientist ≠ Good at Math.