Growing up with a dad who had a PhD in microbiology along with myriad other degrees, science and research went hand-in-hand with daily learning. However, as a person who leans more towards art and emotion and rule-bending, science and math always seemed so mysterious to me.
I’ll admit it: I was intimidated by those subjects as a teen! I could memorize facts and formulas, I understood the scientific method, and I even came to rely on research for nearly all my writing and art projects. Still, there seemed to be a code about science and math I just couldn’t crack.
I firmly believe science and art go hand-in-hand. People are multifaceted, and the arts serve to inspire and vice-versa. So what is it about science and math that cause so many people to struggle with those subjects?
- Many believe a lack of hands-on activities hurts science involvement and understanding. Thankfully, there has been a significant uptick in the number of science museums with such activities, as well as class room activities.
- Language barriers. Every branch of science has specific, technical terms associated with it, just like every branch of any other industry. If kids can memorize all the different Minecraft characters, if moms can memorize all the different types of diapers, bottles, and formula, they can memorize science terms too.
- Science is slow. It just is. It is methodical, it is pain-staking, and many times the routine in observation is, well, less-than thrilling for most.
- Science is inconclusive. You should never hear a scientist say, “This proves beyond a doubt that…” This tends to go against our human nature that craves decisiveness, admires risk-takers, and encourages innovation.
- In an effort to show all the different aspects of science (a good intention), public systems tend to teach breadth, not depth. When there are specific classes like chemistry or biology, the wealth of new information comes at students like a fire-hose, and they rarely have adequate time to learn.
- Lastly, our highly competitive society has inadvertently taught young people that something “hard” (I always say, “challenging”) isn’t worth their time, if they can just as well spend their effort in things that come easier to them. Better to get a higher GPA or class score, than to work hard but only get a C.
Science is actually not hard or super-complicated, but it does require patience, attention to detail, and straight-up memorization of technical terms, formulas, and other important information. It is time to de-mystify science by encouraging your kids (and yourself!) to continue exploring new subjects and not give up because it seems hard or time-consuming. Let’s crack that code!