Science in the Classroom: Feeding the Flames of Curiosity.
News  comment 
4th Dec 2017

A neuroscientist and a 12-year-old girl walked onto a TED stage. What were they doing on the same platform together? Their mission was to give a rousing presentation and the message was this -- we severely underestimate the abilities of young ones in the sciences. You see, the young girl, Amy O’Toole, and a group of her school friends had become the youngest published scientists in the world. At the time, they aged between 8 and 10 years old. 



Neuroscientist Beau Lotto had set out to explore the types of people who could become scientists. It turns out that anybody can. In spite of doubtful adults and teachers, as well as hesitant scientific journals, the group of young students conducted valid research that was eventually celebrated by the scientific community. Mandatory viewing for any parent interested in their children’s education, the TED talk and the backstory into the project are an eye-opener into the learning capabilities of young people. 



Part of Beau’s and Amy’s message focused on the role of perspective in our lives. Lack of perspective and the resulting uncertainty often hold people back from bold endeavours. For a long time, science had been a man’s game. Yes, times changed, and determination to break the mould produced some of history’s great scientists who are women. However, they account for only 3% of Nobel science laureates, and the trend looks set to continue. It’s clear we still hold on to certain perspectives when it comes to the sciences.  Perspectives form, partly, in the classroom. It’s there, too, that young people absorb information like parched sponges.



In her paper, “Science in Early Childhood Classrooms,” Karen Worth from the Center for Science Education Education Development Center, Inc. highlights the under-estimated abilities of children to learn. She also says, “science may be a particularly important domain in early childhood, serving not only to build a basis for future scientific understanding but also to build important skills and attitudes for learning.”   Karen goes on to reveal, “Children who have a broad base of experience in domain-specific knowledge (for example, in mathematics or an area of science) move more rapidly in acquiring more complex skills.”



So children are primed to learn sciences, and they can greatly improve a range of skills along the way. But perspectives sometimes get in the way of fulfilling true potential. Could it be that we still encourage our boys to pursue the sciences and our girls the arts?  Fortunately, due to diverse education programmes, it’s no longer true that only a young man can shout, “Eureka!” All kids are wildly curious and all youngsters have reasoning skills that can be nurtured to accomplish something special. Of course, much of the responsibility falls on teachers to nourish interest in the sciences.



Parents have their part to play too. If you see the science spark in your children, don’t be hesitant to let it grow into a raging fire!  In order for perspectives to change and for every young person to achieve something great, we can’t put restrictions on learning.



Science, like technology, is no longer gender-specific or even age-specific. Instead, educators, carers, and role-models must spot potential and feed the flames of curiosity.