Saturday, September 12, 2009

You can see it early.

Today was a children's fair. I took a cool sciencey thing to show, but sciencey thing is not a toy, even though it may look like one. It costs as much as a very used car.

Ideal situation: child approaches, I introduce sciencey thing and allow child to touch and experience in a controlled manner. Child wonders in amazement and laughs at my jokes. I feel like I'm saving the world through science education.

Frequency of ideal situation: 45%
Frequency of children who approach sciencey thing aggressively and grab without permission, often under the direction of parents: 15%
Children completely uninterested in s.t.: 20%
Children grossed out by or afraid to approach s.t. 10%
Frequency in which child approaches aggressively bringing hand directly out of a food item to touch s.t. under observation of parents: 10%

And here's my favorite. Son approached s.t. with wonder in eyes and begins exploring nicely. Mom yanks son away to next booth saying "Hey! Is that one of them snap bracelets?!!? They're free!!"

I spend many, many synapses wondering/worrying about the importance of early childhood education, the achievement gap, etc. Why do some kids arrive on campus grossly undercurious? Why are some of my students so underprepared intellectually? Is it too late to help them by college? And a heartbreaker: highly motivated that simply can't retain information at a high enough rate to succeed. It seems that I got a glimpse into the "nurture" aspect of the phenomenon today.


  1. I was at our local science museum a few months ago and various faculty members from my university were showing off science-y stuff for kids. (I'm not in the hard sciences and we almost never do community outreach stuff in my field, so I really respect those who do.) I thought it was SO cool and took my kid in to check it all out... and he wasn't interested. Crud. We really want him to think science is wildly exciting. Not sure how to do that, exactly. Maybe next time he'll be more interested.

  2. I'm sure that I will be taught a lesson for any condescension I felt toward these kids by having my own son shun science completely, and moreover, probably ruin something expensive at a fair like this one. Yes, that WOULD be justice!