Several years ago, while learning about the problem of science illiteracy, I discovered something of critical importance: You can’t get people engaged and enthusiastic or even respectful about a subject if they don’t see any value or connection to themselves.
Kids aren’t going to do well in high school science classes (or even choose to take those classes) if they feel no love for science. It is too late to instill that into them, perhaps. Besides, only a VERY small percentage of the kids would actually go on to become scientists. They probably don’t need biology, chemistry and physics knowledge to succeed in their eventual careers.
Yet, there is tremendous VALUE in knowing how science works. There is also a critical value in appreciating WHY science is one of humanities’ greatest inventions. It’s the process that produces the most reliable knowledge. It’s the best way we know how to learn what’s true about nature.
All those years ago, I remember highlighting in green accent marker a bit from a journal article that mentioned “science appreciation”. It struck me as obvious! Why don’t we teach that? Teach kids what science is (fun and interesting and powerful) and connect it to their own lives (health, well-being, technology, wildlife and pets).
About a year ago, I thought about this again, prompted by my daughter saying that science class was boring. She didn’t know why she had to learn this stuff. I thought that was sad. She had to memorize things she didn’t want to know and perhaps may never use (though I STILL hope one day she picks a science career).
I looked up “science appreciation class” and found that such a thing actually exists! At my own university!
I arranged to talk with the professor who teaches it, Dr. Andrew Read. He shared with me the ups and downs of the class, it’s origin and purpose. It’s a very important purpose: these are the future leaders of our communities and countries. They need to know what science can accomplish and what it can’t. Take a look at my new piece on Sounds Sciencey.