Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What is a scientist?

Children are scientists.  Children soak up all the information around them and they make guesses as to what will happen next.  They learn remarkably quickly.

When we teach small children the alphabet and how to count, we are begging them to memorize.  This is not science.  These are certainly important tools, but not science.  Science is the stuff that they want to do, not what we are making them do in hopes that they can get into the most prestigious kindergarten.  

Some kids love to watch plants grow.  They might note how the plants will change day to day or hour to hour.  They look for correlations.  They might notice that some flowers are open during the day and closed at night.  They probably ask you why.  You are probably tired of them asking "why" and they know that, because they have experimentally proven that already.  They want to know where a bug is walking from and where it is headed.  If you offer a guess "maybe they are heading to their mommy and daddy" they will ask where their mommy and daddy are.  They want to test your hypothesis.  To be fair, they will likely lose patience long before discovering the actual destination of this bug, but the essence of scientific thinking is there.

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