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Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/08/2011 9:32 PM

This has been talked about quite allot here on CR4.

With all the talk there is, about the waning interest in science, budget cuts to science programs. Misappropriations of funds. Mishandling of facts or facts being skewed for a political advantage.

How do you get students and kids involved?

Publish and report on science. But keep the political activists off the band wagon. I actually enjoyed reading this.

The city of Gath

I am curious as to how members feel? Or has this topic be ground to a pulp.

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#1

Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/09/2011 1:54 AM

That was an article that I, too, enjoyed, although I would like a whole lot more detail, like a site map, maybe some shots of the siege line they discuss, some actual dating information, etc.

However, one can write all the science articles one can dream of, and not have a guarantee that people will read it. The article was a lot easier to read than a traditional scientific publication, and there is a good chance that the information I would like to see included would tend to turn others off, especially if they are not archaeology nuts like myself.

I think some well-done videos might capture the attention of youngsters better, like this one, of a developing flagellum:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N09BIEzDlI

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#3
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Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/09/2011 8:27 AM

It all depends on the packaging. In todays world,....to me it seems that if people feel they have to work at something (like committing themselves to read an detailed article) they turn their backs.

Throw them some light reading first.

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#2

Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/09/2011 3:27 AM

To the people of Gath the small people of Israel was the bad guys.

Imagine getting tricked by holograms, disguising sniper riffles as sling shots and hiding a weapon of mass destruction in a wooden box with gold pieces on top.

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#4
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Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/09/2011 8:28 AM

the victors, gets to write the history.

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#5

Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/10/2011 3:13 AM

"I am curious as to how members feel? Or has this topic be ground to a pulp." ........phoenix911

Keep it going. We still don't have answers. Here's one to massage:

Let's get rid of the "No child left behind" mentality and admit to ourselves that only a small percentage of our students have the talents to become serious career engineers and scientists. Identify them and put the motivational and educational focus there. Another small group have a slightly different set of talents to become "super techs". Do the same with them. I think the idea of "science" high schools needs to be brought back into vogue.

Everyone else needs a much simpler version of science education. Society's need is to have people believe in the efficacy of science and scientific methods. And have enough scientific knowledge to keep from hurting themselves either physically or economically. Much less education and scholastic aptitude is needed there.

Science based entertainment is good to get popular support for expensive scientific work that by itself may not be able to be driven by economic need. It may also act to bring out scientific aptitudes that would otherwise be hidden in talented students. But beyond that the entertainment stuff does little to drive the training and career development of scientists and engineers.

It used to be that a lot of our engineers got their training with the help of the "pull method" in which employers that needed engineers knew the only way too get them was to pull them through engineering school largely by providing financial support to schools, summer intern programs and a reputation for hiring graduates. Employers now do their pulling of immigrants from other countries or simply export engineering operations to the countries where trained engineers are abundant.

What we in the USA are now faced with is a need to develop a "push method" for training engineers. As in my first paragraph. And the place to best push is in the high schools. Pick the best students and motivate them to take the opportunity. Make it something very special to go to "Gotham City" Science. The People need to do the pushing. The business world no longer has the vision or motivation. All they care about is next quarter results and maximizing the compensation of their executives.

Ed Weldon

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#6
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Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/10/2011 11:43 AM

Ed-

I have been a strong proponent (at times, activist) of redefining "Special Education" for years- by creating special programs for the gifted, rather than the excessive focus on the variously-challenged ones. But I think high school might be too late. I think one should be able to identify potential scientists/engineers (or artists, musicians, or whatever specialty one favors) by no later than 5th or 6th grade, then channeling these groups to appropriate special programs that will challenge them and accentuate their special talents. This can be accomplished without sacrificing programs for those in need of other forms of special attention...

Leaving your gifted individuals within the general population will bore them, discourage them, and basically render them useless to society, unless they are very, very lucky...

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#7
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Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/10/2011 1:28 PM

cwarner -- You are right about identifying these kids in the 5th and 6th (and earlier) grades. But how can we do that "without sacrificing programs for those in need of other forms of special attention..."? We are already strangling the public schools for resources. Our entire society is falling into a "Live from day to day; look out for #1." mode. How can we plan for any kind of future when we can't bring ourselves to look at what

Our society is running under a severe educational handicap with respect to public education. After more than a century of educational discrimination against various minorities and categories of disadvantaged children we have become zealous in addressing those shortcomings even if it means ignoring the top end of the scholastic aptitude and talent population and leaving them adrift. The lucky ones get their guidance from outside the system (parents, etc.) The not so lucky ones muddle through and end up with a lifetime of student loan debt or even worse.

The USA seems to be the only advanced nation that runs their education system this way. Other nations do it the way the USA did it in the century past. When I went through public schools 60 years ago in New Jersey the kids were split into fast learner and slow learner groups as early as the 3rd grade. By the 8th grade the college prep, business education and vocational groups were pretty well identified. Sure their were inequities; but we understand them now and are better equipped to overcome them.

Other nations do it that way. The USA needs to get off this national guilt trip it's on and reshape it's educational system to what is proven to work. If we don't we will be faced with condemning 75% of our population to a subsistence level standard of living made only tolerable by an abundance of cheap electronic and chemical entertainment.

Ed Weldon

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#8
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Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/10/2011 2:08 PM

I would like to have sat back and see how this develops.

And with the environment set at of instant gratification. it is very difficult.

Definitely these kids interests have to be addressed at a young age. Which starts and comes from the home.

As far as the education. There has to be an assessment done on the future of education of the youngsters. And drop the "No child left behind." Instead, Start the trend of, if your not motivated, don't depend on society to do what you should be doing yourself.

In the states, I really wish that the government would address the issue of dual languages. And eliminate the redundant of teaching the same courses in English and Spanish. This should free up some of the finances to be applied to getting the kids interested.

Two things I recall that was good and bad was one.

When I went to school was field trips that was well organized.

The other thing that was disturbing, was in the grades 5th, 6th and 7th. The students that received the most attention was the students with the abilities on both side of the spectrum. These were the highly intelligent and the opposite end. These students were given special treatment, such as individual lab availability, and in the 70's we had computers, though the lab time was hindered by the availability of the equipment and mainframe.

The idea was, to main stream and look at both ends of the spectrum where the majority was left out. Which even for a 12 year old was disheartening. But it did teach the ones left out perseverance.

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#15
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Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/13/2011 10:45 PM

But how can we do that "without sacrificing programs for those in need of other forms of special attention..."?

Ed, I taught a gifted and talented science class through local preschool PTA for 2nd and third graders. I taught them all how to use a tape measure, we used calculators to determined how much water would fit in a class room, how much it would weigh, and how many trucks it would take to haul it away.

i gave them straws and a post it note and we had contests to see who could fly their straw the farthest. I taught them how to average three flights. and gave them prizes for most consistent as well as max distance. we made balloon powered and mousetrap powered cars, we rolled baby carriages down ramps with a sudden stop to prove how seat belts worked, we tested how many styrofoam cups would hold 100 pounds, and we took pictures of them breaking balloons with a strobe lite so they were in the picture with the breaking balloon. Mousetrap catapults using plastic spoons.Created a vacuum in a jar by putting some wet steel wool in it and sealing it with a stretched balloon held on with a rubber band. made tornados using a magnetic stirrer. Lots of other stuff too. kids kept lab notebooks, measured recorded data. Cost-$25 per student.

Didn't get to do 4th grade, had a career move and started running a steel mill. But giving a kid a yard stick or tape measure and a couple easy problems wasn't that hard or expensive at all.

milo

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#16
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Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/14/2011 12:57 AM

Milo -- Fantastic stuff. You should turn this into a real production. Call it the K-6 Science Cookbook or something like that.

The public schools won't touch it with a 10 foot pole. But the private schools might. And parents might make a go of it. Some might even make a party out of several experimental demos for a group of their kids.

Find teenagers (or younger) who are motivated science students and get them into a competition to see who can make the best Youtube video of each of your demos. They will be great role models for the little students. Find K-6 experienced teachers to jury your competition. In addition to the film include detailed info to help teachers successfully replicate the experiments in a class setting.

Your role in this is executive producer. I have a feeling you are ideal for that job. You can decide for yourself to what extent you would want to try and make it a money maker and the media to create it in.

Ed Weldon

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#17
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Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/14/2011 7:25 PM

Ed-

Sorry for the delayed answer- I've been out in the jungle with limited contact of late.

There is a moral issue when one must chose between helping the more "challenged", be it emotional, physical or whatever, rather than directing limited resources toward those with higher promise for advancing the human condition. In a world of unlimited resources, this would not be an issue, but when resources are limited, choices must be made.

Just to assure you that I am not a cold, heartless capitalist (at least, not totally), I offer up that one of my private projects involves assisting the visually impaired with computer accessibility. No public funds involved- something I and several other associates do in our free time (plus a very extensive Open Source community with similar goals). Of course, I am also trying to set up a program with a local university to make Open Source technical software more accessible to those somewhat limited in English comprehension (again, enjoying significant support and contributions from an extensive Open Source Community). We may be limited in the effects we achieve, but we are doing what we believe in.

In other words, asking the government to take care of those with limited capabilities ignores the fact that there are a lot of people in the world that will help without financial reward. The government should focus on the super-stars- these are the ones that will get us over the next hump...

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#9

Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/10/2011 3:52 PM

I say get the publics interest in science and engineering fields back up.

MythBusters

MacGyver

etc.

With the massive information overload and electronic component miniaturisation now days science and engineering fields can seem a little daunting and difficult to grasp and experience (as a hobby), so keeping it simple and entertaining is a good first step.

If you create and grow a market the education system will follow.

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#10

Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/11/2011 8:58 AM

Have students read " Engineering as a Profession, by Herbert Hoover" might be a good start.

Cheers

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#11

Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/11/2011 11:06 AM

I think the way to get more kids interested in science is to get more scientists interested in teaching. My sense is that few of our teachers have the depth of scientific understanding needed for the job, and that the kids pick up on their discomfort and hesitancy when scientific subjects are brought up in class.

Another obstacle is the shortage of scientific content in kid oriented entertainment. I remember both of my sons being consumed by the Pokey Mon stuff a decade or so back. Apparently there were hundreds of these little (fictional) critters, each with it's own collection of super powers and other characteristics. My sons and all their friends seemed to have mastered all this pseudo information. With the same amount of effort they could have probably mastered the phylogeny of our living world, or the names and properties of the known sub-atomic particles. The kids are all right. It is we the adults who are letting them down by feeding them pablum.

Maybe one of the upsides of our current economic problems is that pay rates in education will be more attractive, and folks with a scientific background will start competing with the sociology, English, history, and 'education' majors who seem to currently hold most of the teaching positions. Or maybe we'll wig out and cut teacher pay...

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#12
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Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/11/2011 12:57 PM

johnfotl -- I think you are on to something here. But I think very few scientists or engineers are going to want to go through the process of becoming and actually working as a public school teacher given the mind numbing restrictions that surround the teacher's work. The few exceptional technical people who do teach are simply not yet numerous enough to have an important impact on education.

What it will take is end runs around the fortifications of the education establishment. Khan Academy is on one of those "end run" paths and accomplishing a whole lot. But their's is not the only path. Worthy of note is that Khan is a non-profit.

The education establishment, for all their noble intentions, does not look favorably on such end runs. They have a large cash flow stream to protect. And one of the major watersheds of that stream, tax dollars, is slowly drying up. They don't want to lose any customers to unconventional education methods if they can help it.

So what other "end runs" are possible? Can the drivers be Corporations? Endowed foundations? Businesses that are healthy enough to put resources into strategic development? Business ventures that see a profit from using better methods of education? New creative entertainment forms?

How can individuals and small enterprises penetrate the wall of teachers' unions and college accredidation bodies?

Lots of food for thought ........... Ed Weldon

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#13
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Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/11/2011 2:41 PM

I think where the Khan academy fits in is when the local schools don't have programs for the more advanced students. There importance is mostly limited to self-starters: you have to want the information. The schools my sons went to all had programs for the fast learners, but I understand that many schools have poorly funded programs or none at all.

I'm a (sort of) supporter of public charter schools. When done well these can be a very good deal for the students and their families, and are a bit less hide-bound than the traditional neighborhood schools. I do think they still mostly require teaching credentials, but they give their teachers a lot more freedom with the curriculum. Unfortunately success in this area (as in any other) is dependent on a core of motivated and effective people.

To my mind the root problem here is that while we spend a lot on our public education system, wages are and have for a long time been on the low end for people with college degrees (let alone five year degrees). We have shorted this profession for decades now, with much of the money being diverted to ever classier buildings, expensive textbooks, and administration. The lowish wages have filtered the teaching ranks for generations, and resulted in a work force that is not always up to the job. But now they run the places. I think if we can manage to refrain from lowering their wages, in a few years these positions will look a lot more attractive and better equipped people start to enter the profession. They will of course pay a significant exasperation tax.

So for the time being I think the 'end run' is the best strategy. I would personally like to see some of our corporations fund field trips to show off their 'toy collections' to school kids, and maybe steer a few of them into careers where they can play with those toys. But I think many business leaders know that if Americans decide to fool around for another generation, there are self-motivated people in other countries who will jump at those careers without the cost of such field trips.

At one point I had volunteered to make a 'science' presentation to the students at a school my sons attended, and they were very supportive, except that I would need a background check that I would of course have to pay for. So my wife and I started a cub scout troop with a distinctly science and technology flavor.

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#14

Re: Here's How to Get People Interested in Science

07/11/2011 6:21 PM

Without overtly stating it, the article (which phoenix911 has picked for an example) demonstrates the 2 most important components of education "opportunity." And it can only be an opportunity, because some students will just not be interested in some subjects, which is to be expected. And some students will have backgrounds that are difficult to overcome or break through.

These 2 components are 1) The teacher, and 2) The teaching environment.

The ideal teacher will have practical knowledge of the subject being taught and will have a love and/or enthusiasm that is catching. A teacher who is enamored with the subject, will pick up the iron filings that aren't rusty -- that is the students who are ripe for picking. Sorry for the mixed metaphor.

The ideal environment would be the equivalent of a "lab" for the subject at hand. School environments are undervalued by a long shot. A similar example is nursing homes and hospitals -- and even prisons. I don't remember the exact nursing home or magazine article that I read about it, but the link provided conveys the idea. Desks all lined up in rows in large, usually sterile. rooms, is NOT the best environment for teaching. I do mention prisons, because that is, too often, how students feel in classrooms.

The article encompasses both these ideals. The enthusiasm of the project starts at the top. While I don't see any particular archaeologist mentioned, you can bet those who are interested in this are visiting the dig on a regular basis. Their enthusiasm for what is being uncovered can't help but be "caught" by the people doing the digging. Their imaginations are set in motion by that enthusiasm. And the environment is not a book that is being opened and closed or referred to... it's the earth and the subject that is being literally opened and studied.

The transference of this to classrooms requires some imagination, some work, some teachers who really care and a school system that allows for this recipe to be cooked. Most public education lacks a lot of these components and then restricts the teaching methods to certain, narrow prescribed ones. All of this is almost tragic.

Now most of us have emerged from these public schools and would say the knowledge is there for the taking for those who will apply themselves. But this thread is about getting students to the point where they WANT to apply themselves. If you think education shouldn't be examined or given thought for improving and is fine as it is, I would define that as a sort of "macho" attitude that will only extend the educational woes that have existed since I can remember.

The best teachers I had in school -- from K-12 -- were the ones who exuded that "love of subject." The environment is hard to change because schools exist and have been built on the model we have. But breaking students into smaller groups and letting them come up with "projects" that they decide in these small groups is one way to simulate the archaeological dig. Real learning becomes an extension of being focused by enthusiasm for some project. I would also, suggest that teachers and schools should then "guide" students in projects that are helpful in a real or intended way to the community they live in. I'll bet every poster/reader here could think of any number of science projects that fit this model. I don't see this as limited to science, though. ALL education could benefit from this kind of instruction and environment. Field trips to areas that have inspired the projects is a way to simulate the "dig" in the article. Kids just naturally know that the school is an artificial environment.

Do I expect to see this kind of thing? For public schools I'm pessimistic. School boards are too much in lock step with the rules that most state boards have legislated. It's way too much about test scores and not enough about true learning and human growth. (For a good read about this read, "The Tyranny of Testing," by Jacques Barzun, Banesh Hoffmann)

If everyone could remember that special teacher that most of us can recall from our school days, it wouldn't be hard to get people interested in changing the educational system. The recalling of that "love" could be the inspiration for change. As it now stands, there is an overabundance of psychological theory being applied to education. If "it" (teaching method) hasn't been shown to work in someone's published paper or study, it is too risky to try, right? I'll politely say BS. We all know what made learning more than rote for us in our lives. And I think these 2 components are the distillation of that. Individual greatness in life is just waiting to be uncovered or unlocked. Newton... Einstein... take your pick of your favorite scientist... they just need to be inspired. The rest, as they say, is history.

I salute phoenix911 for caring to keep the topic alive. It may very well have been beaten to pulp in most people's minds. Yet for all the talk and writing, there is little action. And I think to a large degree it is precisely for the reason stated. The whole idea of education, like so much of our society, has, ironically, become a servant to "science." Education itself is more than that. It is magic... or should be. That is what is missing in today's education.

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