If you look inside any science classroom and ask anyone what science is, the first word you will hear is, “experiments”. Most of our science education focuses on teaching old facts and then experimenting on some of these facts. Usually, a typical science course consists of lectures, followed by hands-on activities to test the facts. However, many times, students and teachers already know the results and conclusion. So, would a science fair be any different from the classroom? Science fairs are supposed to encourage free exploration, but unfortunately, the internet is full of science project ideas with the procedures and results. This is the current state of our science education. Just a small number of fortunate students who have the opportunity and access to mentors and high-end laboratories, are able to go beyond the norm and conduct elaborate testing. For the most part, the focus remains on experimentation and less on the pursuit of new knowledge and understanding.
The current method has no doubt contributed to many advancements, however looking into the future and for the continual progress in science, this is no longer sufficient. In order to put us back on the progress trajectory, we also need more breakthrough theoretical discoveries. Albert Einstein once stated, “A theory can be proved by experiments, but no path leads from experiment to the birth of a theory.” It is time for us to question how we can be equipped to make theoretical scientific discoveries? Changing the way we learn and teach is a major part of the solution for this question.
But what kind of changes should be considered in science education? First, we need to ensure that our teaching methodology focuses on training the mind to think, and not just explaining the facts. We need to prepare the next generation students with new methods of discovery, so they can make bold guesses and have new insights. We are all well aware of the initial conceptual insights of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla and others. Even today we are experimenting these conceptual insights. In the 19th century, the act of having an insight, a eureka-moment, was separated from the processes of developing and testing the novel insight. We need to adopt such good practices of sharing novel insights and allowing many others to experiment it.
Making fresh insights is fundamental for scientific discoveries and must be encouraged and shared through new platforms. Such original insights must also be considered for the highest recognitions. In the current platforms such as the science conferences, we are only allowing presentations with experimentation. Even the judging process for scientific presentations do not have different criteria to judge and recognize conceptual ideas. The current perception that ideas are not worth sharing if there is no test data, is driving many to not even try and pursue their curiosity. Also, considering the fact that testing is expensive, and not everyone can have the resources needed to test/protype their theory or conceptual discovery, creates further limitations. If we have a platform to share such insights, then many people will feel encouraged to share their theoretical discoveries and will open up opportunities for many others who might be interested in it to test these theories. Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest minds of all time, stated, “The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of a planter – for the future. His duty is to lay foundation of those who are to come and point the way.”
For the advancement of our society and to solve the current complex problems we are now facing for which time is of the essence, we need to have a steady flow of new inventions and innovations. We need to be able to go faster from discovery to applied science to product design. One such method that would help us in this pursuit is called, Biomimicry. Biomimicry is known as an applied transdisciplinary approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating time-tested patterns and strategies modeled from complex infrastructures in the natural world. The natural world is full of ideas that are yet to be discovered, and biomimicry shows us how to make such discoveries and extract the blueprints from nature, so we could move faster into product design.
Let’s adopt new models and create new platforms to encourage progress in science. Let’s remember that we cannot keep doing the same things and expect different results.
Note: Children’s Innovation Center offers this transformational science education for High School Students, through the Emerging Innovators Research Program.
About the Author: This article was written by Ms. Shanti Balaraman and was originally published in LinkedIn. Reposting it here for the convenience of our parents and students.
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