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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Teach Your Children*

I'm taking two classes again this semester--Digital Libraries and Bibliography of the Sciences--and they're each challenging in different ways. In the case of Digital Libraries, it involves material that might not flummox a 25-year-old recent college graduate, who had far more exposure to computers in their lives than I have in mine, but is definitely making me play catch-up.  I'll talk about this at some point, but today's bug under my saddle is the Bibliography class.  Nothing against the professor--he's a guest professor from Carnegie Mellon who seems to have a great knack for asking the right questions--and today's are real doozies.

I just finished reading ten articles (!!!) between the two classes--six for Science, mostly about the relationship between libraries and child and young adult patron's needs in the Science area--from toddlers to twelfth graders.  He posed the questions on one of the discussion  boards: 

1)My first question would be ... what other information exists on high quality science literature? Surely I haven't unburied all there is to be had.

2) Did you notice that engineering never seems to be the topic of children's books? Isn't it cool enough? Perhaps nobody has the knack of introducing it to children yet?

Perhaps the answer is found in the question itself.  It assumes that children should be introduced to science by reading about it first, rather than experiencing it. I'd like to (respectfully) toss that idea out with the trash. 

I have a son who's in Boy Scouts--Life Rank--one 50-mile bike ride and a service project away from Eagle.  God, I'm so proud of him.  He DOES possess that Calvin-like (Calvin and Hobbes, that is) evil 6-year-old persona, though, as evidenced by his reaction (he was 12 at the time) when I made the mistake of telling him about the Missouri University of Science and Technology summer explosives camp***.  You read that right.  The kids learn all about explosives (dynamite, primacord, C4, TNT, gunpowder, etc.), and the end of the camp is highlighted with a fireworks show that the campers create  themselves.**  He got the same look that Calvin gets when he visits the dinosaurs in the museum--and I smile when I think about not only Calvin's imagination, but my son's (and I suspect a LOT of other people's sons). But there is a risk involved in expanding the boundaries of the imagination. In the words of Jeff Foxworthy, "Famous last words--"HEY GUYS, WATCH THIS!".

A good story, well told, can be captivating.  But nothing beats first-person experience.

*--Graham Nash (performed with Crosby, Stills, and Nash), No Nukes, 1980.
**--To those of you wondering about why a school out in the middle of Missouri would have such a thing, it would be helpful for you to know that the Missouri University of Science and Technology, which used to be called the University of Missouri-Rolla, was originally called the Missouri School of Mines.  Mines make extensive use of dynamite, TNT, explosives, etc. so this camp would be a natural extension of their work (albeit a unique one)
*** Here's the link, just in case you think I'm kidding:
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