Saturday, October 12, 2013

Who Needs Science Anyway?

Interesting creatures used to live here in our valley...
Why go through the trouble of teaching science? Who's interested in it anyway? Everyone knows that the real money (and that's all that counts) is in finance, economics, real estate, medicine (oops, that's science), and pop culture. And sports. And research just isn't a priority for our country. The Chinese do it better anyway. There just isn't the interest in science among our children. They just don't care these days. Why teach science when no one wants it?
Checking out radioactive ores with a Geiger counter.
The kids in our community provided us a resounding answer today. Hundreds of people came out today to our new Science Community Center for our Wild Planet Day Celebration, a fundraiser for our newly expanding Great Valley Museum. Hundreds of kids, learning about all manner of chemistry, physics, biology, geology and astronomy. Our planetarium shows were filled to overflowing, kids swarmed over our fossil and mineral specimens, they held a 15 foot long python, they made bug models and dissected squids. Hundreds of people.
Identifying minerals using acid, glass and luster
Our educational system seems at times to be leaving science behind. Funding of science education gets cut in favor of standardized testing of the "basics", as if anything is more important than science in our society. And yet there can be no doubt that our kids hunger for science, and so do their parents and grandparents. Our very own community, poor as it is (we've never pulled out of depression-level unemployment levels), passed a bond issue that paid for the construction of our Science Community Center, one of the finest science teaching facilities in the state.
Picking out a few free samples.
I'm proud of my community. The students here never cease to amaze me when we have events like this. They are so enthusiastic, so hungry to learn about the science that they never seem to see in their schools, their media, or their computer games. And for some of them, the science sticks. I've been teaching long enough that some of my students at the college will tell me their interest began at events like these a decade previous, or at Science Olympiad competitions when they were in junior high.
What are they doing? Checking out fluorescent minerals.
We can't let these kids down. Our society depends on a scientifically literate electorate. We need to have legislators who recognize the need for scientific research that is untainted and unbiased by corporate funding. Basic research pays huge dividends for the society that pays for it, and we aren't doing so well in that category anymore.
Photo by Mrs. Geotripper
 I was inspired today. These kids give me a lot of hope about the future...
Photo by Mrs. Geotripper

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