Science Education–Start ‘Em Young

Our country is behind other nations in regards to its science and math education.  If we want to compete in the future, we need to get kids AND their parents fired up about science.  So what can we do?  Make science fun.  Make it accessible.  Make it relevant.  For a small fishing town, we have some amazing opportunities.

My daughters are Girl Scouts.  Every year or so, we hold a Women of Science Day.  Not only does this event showcase women in scientific careers, but it gives girls the opportunity to explore a number of fields.  This year, we had activity stations from aerodynamics (paper airplane making as well as a flight simulator) to zoology.  With such a small group (50 girls) we were able to keep things very informal.  The girls could visit activities more than once, and some spent the entire afternoon on their favorite.  The wonder in their eyes, the excitement on their faces as they discovered something new and fascinating, was a thrill in itself.

I’m not sure if the Boy Scouts have a similar annual activity, but boys are by no means left out.  There is great science education in our schools for all the kids, as well as extracurricular activities such as the science club (there are boys in it, of course, but a local girl won this year’s state competition and is going to nationals), marine biology classes, and teams that participate in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl competitions.

We are also lucky to have the Prince William Sound Science Center.  PWSSC arose in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez spill, and their scientific work and community involvement are indispensible.  Not only does the PWSSC provide a place to learn about the local environment, it has a staff of scientists and educators who conduct research, make public presentations, bring in outside scientists and experts, and provides a cooperative program for the schools to work with kids from kindergarten up.  From the salmon life cycle to designing and running their own remote operated vehicles (ROV) complete with mock oil spill clean-up (with popcorn, not oil.  We’ve had enough of that here, thanks.), the Science Center starts early to get kids and their parents aware of and involved in the world around them.  During the summer, there are science camps and activities for all ages, drawing folks from across the nation.

Our community depends on understanding the environment and our effect upon it.  We must insure that our children have the knowledge for assessment and maintenance, as well as finding ways to fix things when activities go awry.  Not just on a local level, but on a global scale as well.  For that, we need scientists.  How does your community contribute to creating future scientists?

Oh, and what, you may ask, does science education have to do with science fiction and science fiction romance?  Only everything.  Because chances are, a love of science will eventually draw you into the countless and amazing worlds of SF and SFR.  An interest in biology led me here.  What about you?

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6 comments

  1. Terrific post and topic, Cathy. In the UK, many universities are dropping science courses due to lack of interest. Kids are losing that fascination with science, and we need to do a better job teaching it, promoting it as a viable career opportunity.

    “Because chances are, a love of science will eventually draw you into the countless and amazing worlds of SF and SFR. An interest in biology led me here.”

    And vice versa. SF inspired my interest in science in general–I’m no scientist, but I count myself a big fan.

  2. Thanks, Robert. It’s beyond a shame that the universities are dropping the sciences! We need young minds prepped to explore everything from energy solutions to medical breakthroughs to getting us beyond the stars.

    And yes, a love of SF will often lead to an interest in science. I think my physics guy husband started that way 🙂

  3. Great post! Just recently I saw a tweet from either Scientific American or Mental Floss (I forget which) that said the US was one of only 3 countries in the world who hadn’t officially adopted the metric system (the others were Burma and Liberia, I believe). I wonder if that’s somehow symptomatic of a blindness where science is concerned?

  4. That could be so, KC. Feeling comfortable when someone talks about meters or liters or grams would make the science more accessible. I admit, I prefer talking about pounds to kilos and have to think quite hard to convert. But hopefully my kids and their generation will use it more and more. Then we can catch up with the rest of the world 🙂

  5. I never thought of myself as a science geek. Until the night I realized I’d been immersing myself in astral physics for weeks in a bumbling attempt to grasp the concepts. My science education in school was a joke, though four hours a week of home economics was compulsory.

  6. I bet you can sew a mean star map, Diane 😉

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