Friday, November 13, 2009

Quantam Mechanics in Middle School?

I was searching for middle school level physics teaching resources (the level I think worthwhile for general enthusiasts) when I came across this interesting essay about how to use science education to get kids actually interested in science. It was written by Douglas E. Richards, author of a series of middle school science thrillers called The Prometheus Project, and appeared on a website called EarthSky. Here's a taste:

Bringing relativity, quantum physics, and genetic engineering to middle school

Imagine a seventh-grade science teacher announcing to her class, “For the next week, we’re going to do something different. First, you’ll never, ever, be tested on the material we’ll be covering. Second, we’ll be talking about scientific ideas so awesomely cool that you’ll swear I’m making them up. Concepts such as Einstein’s theory of relativity, quantum physics, cosmology, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology. Amazing science that I promise will be more surprising and harder to believe than anything you’ve ever read in a Harry Potter novel.”

Do you think this would get the class’s attention? You bet it would.

Given the importance of science to our collective futures, it isn’t enough for us to teach sets of facts for given scientific topics. It’s our job to stoke young imaginations as well. To show how fascinating, surprising, and mind-blowingingly cool science can be. To show that along with the rote memorization of scientific knowledge, science is about the infinity of what we still don’t know. It’s about world-changing ideas; about experiments that show the universe to be, in the words of Arthur Eddington, “not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.”

And this is something that we, as a society, are not doing as well as we should.


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