Thursday, October 15, 2009

A new approach to science education: Start with the unknown

Magic World’s mission is to inspire a new generation of scientists that ask big questions. This means a new approach to science education, both formal and informal. Typically, we see education as gradually leading a child along a path of acquiring mankind’s knowledge. For 20 something years you learn more and more complicated and difficult things until at last you are proclaimed ready to enter and contribute to the world at large. This is particularly true for science. We learn a large body of knowledge and if we are good at acquiring that knowledge we may study it further until we reach a point where we are thrown into ‘academia’ where we are now meant to participate in advancing that knowledge. Except that most scientists arrive there clever and knowledgeable but having lost the wonder that drives true discovery and the bold thinking required for revolutionary advance. Why is that and what’s to be done? What we have set out to do is to introduce children to science by first showing them the unknown to feed their imagination. Not high school children, not middle school children but preschool and elementary age children who are not afraid to ask the most absurd of questions. A child that knows that all is not known, we think, will revel in the imagination of possibilities and is more likely to see a role for themselves in the process of discovery. Once a child has imagined a role for themselves in pushing the boundaries of human knowledge they will be less deterred by difficulties or hurdles along the way that might otherwise dictate their career path. They will be scientists already and school will be a place where they can learn the tools that will help them further their quest. Contrast this to the way we work today. We plod up a staircase of learning step by step motivated largely by the pats on the back we get along the way in the forms of grades and prizes not even realizing that the stairs vanish somewhere in the future leaving us staring into a wide open space with few cues as to where it leads. By then unfortunately we have learned how to climb stairs, not to build them and certainly not to imagine where they might eventually lead. Instead, what if we always knew that it ended and what if we always imagined where they could lead, wouldn’t we be more prepared at the top of the staircase in our choice of how and where to build? We hope that through our books and other media we can captivate the imaginations of young children and help fuel a generation of scientists who enter science purposefully, for the beauty and joy of discovery.

1 comment:

  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.