Schmience

I am developing a comprehensive, constructivist science education program for primary-school-aged children (aged 7-11), centered around an anchor television show. As a “former” scientist (once… always…) I have been distressed at how the vast majority see science as a set of facts and theories about the nature and function of the natural world. This is, of course, a wonderful and fascinating part of what we mean when we say science, but science is more fundamentally a system of truth testing – a way of learning and knowing.

Sadly, some post modernist and religious fundamentalist trends have attacked and undermined the validity of science, one to correct cultural bias, and the other to protect its dogma. This has lead to an unfortunate popular misconception that scientific concepts are just one more set of beliefs among many, from which we may choose.

But what Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Descartes and Newton, among others, have devised is not some set of facts, but a method that can be used to overcome the natural biases inherent in human thought, to test our common sense impressions and hypotheses. The importance of this, is that unless validated by rigorous scientific method, ideas are very likely to be tinted by these biases and therefore be unreliable.

The most effective way I have observed to teach the scientific method, and hopefully staunch this ebbing tide of trust in science, is to isolate it from this body-of-natural-fact construct, and use it as a generic problem-solving tool. This is how I taught my children science. If they were disagreeing about something (in our house it was commonly something like which brand of ice cream was best) we would arrange a set of blind taste tests with them and their friends to settle the debate.

So I want to attack these misconceptions, and as a film maker, begin by planning a TV show:  Schmience  http://schmience.terrakino.net/. where a team of children use the scientific method to answers questions posed by the audience, much like Mythbusters (BTW the best science show on TV http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/mythbusters/) meets the Little Rascals.

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